Category Archives: Lockdown

Connect Dudley – Launch Event

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

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

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

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

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

An Afternoon with… Carolyn Forché & Lori Soderlind

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I have always read American poetry. When I came back to writing in 2013 I read many American poets. Editing A Tale of Two Cities project 3 years ago, I grew to appreciate the differences between English and American poetry. During this pandemic, the borders (were there ever any?) of our digital world have diminished and many events are global. I haven’t done the statistics but I probably have an equal UK to International dip in events over our Lockdowns.

At one of the many online festivals I have attended I discovered Carolyn Forché and immediately connected to the spirit of her work. I went on to watch several readings and read a selection of her poetry. As you know, the past couple of years have been difficult and financially I am unable to spend, so the things I really loved in 2020 went onto Birthday and Christmas Lists. Carolyn’s book In the Lateness of the World was one of my Christmas orders. I want to dip in and out, but fear I may devour it! You can hear Museum of Stones and Boatman here.

When I saw the Hudson Valley Writers Center had lunchtime readings and Carolyn was reading on the 7th February, I was very excited. There’s a lot in the diary, all carefully colour coded and occasionally I find myself counting down to an event, this was one of those. Equally I love discovering new to me poets and not knowing Lori Soderlind’s work, I looked forward to hearing somebody new. This afternoon (or evening for us in the UK) was too good not to share.

Enjoy!

Carolyn Forché and Lori Soderlind read from their most recent writing plus Q&A.

Carolyn Forché is an award winning author of poetry and prose. She is the author of the 2019 memoir What You Have Heard Is True (Penguin Random House), a devastating, lyrical, and visionary book about a young woman’s brave choice to engage with horror in order to help others. What You Have Heard Is True was a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award.

Claire Messud writes, “In this searing, vital memoir, Carolyn Forché at last reveals the dark stories behind her famous early poems: she brings alive the brutality, complexity and idealism of El Salvador in the late 1970s, a time of revolution that echoes all too painfully in the present. What You Have Heard Is True, a riveting and essential account of a young woman’s political and human awakening, is as beautiful as it is painful to read.” And Claudia Rankine notes: “What You Have Heard Is True is as much an enthralling account of a life marked by an encounter as it is a document of a time and place. Carolyn Forche’s urgent and compelling memoir narrates her role as witness in an especially explosive and precarious period in El Salvador’s history. This incredible book shapes chaos into accountability. It marries the attentive sensibility of a master poet with the unflinching eyes of a human rights activist.”

Renowned as a “poet of witness,” Carolyn Forché is the author of five books of poetry. Her first poetry collection, Gathering The Tribes (Yale University Press, 1976), won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. In 1977, she traveled to Spain to translate the work of Salvadoran-exiled poet Claribel Alegrí­a, and upon her return, received a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, which enabled her to travel to El Salvador, where she worked as a human rights advocate. Her second book, The Country Between Us (Harper and Row, 1982), received the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, and was also the Lamont Selection of the Academy of American Poets. Her third book of poetry, The Angel of History (HarperCollins, 1994), was chosen for The Los Angeles Times Book Award. Blue Hour is her fourth collection of poems (HarperCollins, 2003).

Her most recent collection, In the Lateness of the World (Penguin Press, 2020), is a tenebrous book of crossings, of migrations across oceans and borders but also between the present and the past, life and death. Forché’s anthology, Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness, was published by W.W. Norton & Co. in 1993. In 2014, her new anthology, The Poetry of Witness: The Tradition in English, 1500-2001, was published. Her translation of Claribel Alegria’s work, Flowers From The Volcano, was published by the University Pittsburgh Press in 1983. In 2000, Curbstone Press published a new book of her translations of Alegrí­a, entitled Sorrow.

Lori Soderlind is author of two memoirs: The Change (My Great-American, Postindustrial, Midlife Crisis Tour) and Chasing Montana (A Love Story). She is director of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Manhattanville College. Her writing has appeared in anthologies and journals; her essay “66 Signs” is included in the Norton Anthology of Best Creative Nonfiction. She has reviewed books for the New York Times and elsewhere. Lori began her career in print journalism, working as a reporter, editor, and freelancer for newspapers and magazines across New Jersey and New York. After earning an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University, she worked as a city editor at the Times Union newspaper in Albany, NY, and taught writing at SUNY’s Albany campus. She was also an adjunct professor at Columbia University and Western Connecticut State University and a professor of journalism at Norwalk Community College in Norwalk, CT, before taking her position as director of the Manhattanville College MFA program.

Regarding her love of carpentry, Lori was torn between being a writer, a carpenter, or a rock star for much of her early life and finally settled on a career in the area where she felt she might actually have talent. This did not stop her from pursuing her other passions; she has been attempting and sometimes succeeding at renovating houses and barns for much of her adult life and is now practicing scales on her electric bass in earnest, hoping music might regain a place in her creative universe.
Lori studied English in college, then followed her father’s footsteps into journalism—a field where she was able to actually earn a living writing about unusual bar mitzvahs, parachuting grandmothers and the weather. She briefly quit the newspaper world to work in a book store and in a wood shop and, when they fired her there (mainly, she thinks, for being a girl), she set off on the western adventure that would become her first book. Her latest book, The Change, was the fruit of a long drive she took with her dog Colby, setting off to find “the most depressing places I could find in the country,” Lori has explained, though she only had time to scratch the surface. Colby died peacefully at home shortly before his sixteenth birthday. Lori now lives in New York City with her Portuguese water dog Graci. 

©2020 Hudson Valley Writers Center

Listening to Lori’s reading sparked so many thoughts in my mind. It was a joy to listen in. Carolyn read many poems I have heard/read before which always gives an opportunity to listen deeper. The Q&A was generous. I loved seeing how touched Lori was to read with Carolyn and hearing the stories behind her work. Both look at troubles and divides (that’s putting it lightly). The whole event filled my heart. And you missed it, right? Well no fear… have a watch for yourselves. The UK person Lori mentions at the beginning is not me.

Wolverhampton Literature Festival 2021

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12-14 February
Showcasing the very best of writers, speakers, performers,
thinkers, activists and artists from across the UK.

The Wolverhampton Literature Festival is already howling away. Enjoy a weekend of Literature online. See the full programme here. https://wolvesliteraturefestival.co.uk/index.html

Wolverhampton Literature Festival returns for its fifth year in February 2021. Hosted by City of Wolverhampton Council the festival aims to amplify the voice of authors, poets, writers, storytellers, puppeteers, podcasters, vloggers, publishers across the UK. Celebrating our creative communities living and from the Black Country and further!

Over a three-day period, taking place on the 12-14 of February, our programme of events features a variety of entertainment, which consist of talks, performances, readings, and practical workshops. We provide a high-quality experience for visitors by delivering engaging, exciting and thought-provoking events within our spectacular venues across and the city and, for 2021, online.

Our programme this year, will be providing something for everyone to enjoy, engage with and feel empowered by. Re-lighting Wolverhampton through the power of literature. Copyright © 2017-2021 City of Wolverhampton Council

I was lucky enough to be part of the Wolverhampton Literature Festival in 2018, the region is bursting with talent and I loved the arty/creative outlook of combining the arts and how much was centred on Family. Since then it has gone from strength to strength. This year they are navigating through an online feast with lots to choose from and many FREE events, some are Live streamed and can be watched later. I have just enjoyed readings from R. M Francis & Helen Calcutt.

Celebrating their recent publication successes, R. M. Francis and Helen Calcutt will read from their most recent poetry collections: Subsidence (Smokestack Books) and Somehow (Verve Poetry Press). Their collections deal with issues of loss, grief, anger and love, both in terms of the personal and communal, so this reading will be a chance to explore the difficult, often unspoken aspects of sense of self and sense of place.

R. M. Francis is a lecturer in Creative and Professional Writing at the University of Wolverhampton where he completed his PhD. He’s the author of five poetry pamphlet collections. His novel, Bella, was published by Wild Pressed Books, and Smokestack Books published his poetry collection, Subsidence, in December 2020. In 2019 he was the David Bradshaw Writer in Residence at the University of Oxford and is currently Poet in Residence for the Black Country Geological Society.

Helen Calcutt’s poetry, journalism, and critical writing features in publications such as the Guardian, The Huffington Post, The Brooklyn Review, Poetry London, Poetry Scotland, Wild Court, and The London Magazine. Her first pamphlet ‘Sudden rainfall’ (Perdika, 2014) was a PBS Choice. Her second, ‘Unable Mother’, was published by V. Press in 2018. She is creator of poetry anthology ‘Eighty-Four’, produced in aid of the male suicide prevention charity CALM. It was a Poetry Wales Book of the Year, 2019, and was shortlisted for the Saboteur Awards, Best Anthology 2019. Helen’s newest pamphlet, ‘Somehow’ was published by Verve Poetry Press in September 2020. © 2017-2021 City of Wolverhampton Council

Redditch Borough Poem

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Last month I posted about a project I was involved in during 2019/20, which due to COVID restrictions had to become something different to the original concept. It became a wonderful collective poetry film produced by maz broadcast.

The official release happened at the end of January so I can now reveal it in full glory.

With thanks to Stewart Sanderson (Arts Development Officer/ Leisure and Cultural Services).

Redditch Borough Poem 

Produced last year in line with Government restrictions, we’re delighted to be sharing the Redditch Borough Poem film version with you. Featuring responses to the Borough from residents and community organisations – and produced by local filmmaker Mazen Salmou, with support from Arts in Redditch and Bromsgrove and Redditch Welcome Refugees. Copyright © 2020 Bromsgrove District Council

In January 2020 a group of Redditch residents each wrote their own lines of a poem about the borough and what it means to them. Shortly after the poem was finished, Lockdown 1.0 happened and Covid struck. Now, one year on from the start of the project, as we navigate through lockdown 3.0, this virtual reading has been released to bring hope to all and offer a celebration of our Town.

The filming of this video took place at a time restrictions were eased and appropriate PPE and distancing was adhered to. Thank you to Arts in Redditch and Bromsgrove and Redditch Welcome Refugees for supporting this project – and to all the community groups and individuals who took part for being so generous with their time and creativity.

If you would like to know more details about the poetry project or the virtual reading, please contact Redditch Borough Council.

Review of January 2021

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We continued to have snow in the beginning of the month and towards the end of the month. We had to contend with Storm Christoph and many areas of the UK (including this county) were flooded. It was often cold and frosty! Close friends contracted Covid, fortunately none were hospitalised, all are either recovering or recovered. One family saw it soar through inter-generationally. Closer to home, Mr G. who has been out to work for all 3 Lockdowns had to self isolate for 10 days after an employee caught covid. Fortunately, he’s all clear.

January saw a balance between much needed paid work and writing, for a day at least and then we went into the 3rd Lockdown. My contract was eventually renegotiated and I went back to work out there.

WEEK 1 & 2:

I am working on a couple of projects which took chunks of January time. I took a booking for a Reader Series in March in the USA, which was then rearranged for January!

I sent some submissions. By the 2nd Jan.I had 2 new poems published and by some miracle (December submissions) by the 7th Jan – I had 7. This almost makes up for 2019/2020! Then I had a break of 3 weeks which dragged me over some deadlines. At the end of 2020 I was approached for work in two anthologies.

A portion of my time is now spent typing up notebook poems from last year and I have been sending these through the editing mill. In one of these editing groups I discovered the joy of the Muppets doing Robert Frost! After watching it I have a vague recollection of seeing it before, when I was too young to get the poetic reference.

I signed up to some new classes for 2021 which will continue as a year of Learning (which is what I decreed 2020 as), but unlike Lockdown times I also need to get the house straight so shall not be returning to a full time life online. I have classes and workshops rolling over from last year with Judith Redwing, L.A Marks and Celena Diane, all in the USA and Rakaya Fetuga in London. I love working with and listening to International poetry, I have always enjoyed reading translated poetry, even in my teens. Most events attract global audiences nowadays which is silver lining to poetry on Zoom (and other platforms).

I saw Sean O’Brien, Joelle Taylor and Memoona Zahid Live at The Butchery, which was a lively and fabulous event. Martin Figura and Helen Ivory are masters at making the hosting and organising of such feats look easy! Luke Wright and Jennifer A McGowan wowed audiences at Yes We Cant, PPP did their usual sterling job of providing a thoroughly entertaining, high energy evening!

During the week I saw David Clarke at Crafty Crows, it was a great reading and I finally made sense of the numbering in some of his latest work. It was a wonderful chance for people to hear current work before it makes it out in book form (which I am almost certain it will). It was lovely reading comments from people who had not had the pleasure of hearing David read before. It was also great to hear an extended set by Catherine Baker.

I was excited to return to Fire & Dust the next evening featuring Clive Oseman , it was great fun and I felt a real sense of reunion. Helen Ivory & Martin Figura featured at Poet’s Cafe, another incredible evening.

The week was finished off with news of a project going LIVE. Read all about it here. Dear 2021, The Start of It was part of Sheffield’s Year of Reading & the BBC The Novels that Shaped our World, it stemmed from a two part workshop with Nik Perring who was Writer in Residence at Sheffield Libraries.

It was great fun and some of our poems were selected to be part of the book which marks this project. I have seen the book online and am waiting excitedly for a copy. Dear 2021

I was accepted for a workshop with John Brantingham later this month and after several unsuccessful applications in 2020, I made one that was accepted! The weekend was spent back in Sheffield Libraries with the Poetry sharing group and in the evening I hot-footed over to America to join the Ohio Poetry Association (OPA)for a few hours on a workshop with Diane Kendig. This was a thoroughly absorbing experience, one I felt lucky to be part of. It finished off the notebook I started in December. A sparkling new notebook for January then, well almost. I am working my way through shelved stock, it was one bought 15 years ago.

To finish the week I went on Cath Drake‘s Refresh 2021 class. I knew the mindfulness was just what I needed and by now I had news that my contract in the real world had been reinstated and that I was due back in work the next day. So I double needed these few hours. It was a heart-warming experience in a supportive group and I loved the meditation. I had a workshop with Sarah L.Dixon and wrote a poem from a wondorous prompt.

Week 3

I intentionally attempted to do less writing events this week, I was working all week and needed some down time and my creative projects need full focus at the moment, which is another reason I let submission deadlines slide. There are only so many plates you can spin!

I listened to advice and found motivation from Rommi Smith, Jo Clement, JT Welsch & Hannah Bannister at the Northern Writers’ Awards and spent an evening with Sarah L.Dixon & Tom Sastry at Cafe Writers. Later in the week I spent a wonderful couple of hours enjoying Zelda Chappel‘s New Beginnings class, again a great group of writers. Followed by the Poets in Motion, where I discovered my Reading Series slot was to be later this month. I spent a wondrous night with Rosie Garland. Love her performance, poetry and enthusiasm for her publishers, Nine Arches Press. This event was from Trafford Libraries. By now work in the real world was well underway and it was a challenge not to be asleep by 7PM! I also dedicated some writing desk time to myself to whittle away on the projects.

The weekend saw a plethora of events: I went to Redwing‘s Food for Thought Cafe and Oooh Beehive, Clive Oseman and Nick Lovell had booked none other than Elvis McGonagall! It has been more than a year since I last saw this King of poetry in action and it was a real treat! I did Rakaya Fetuga‘s workshop and learnt a lot about forging. On Sunday I had double events. I wanted to catch Marvin Thompson at Cheltenham Poetry Festival’s event also featuring Simon Alderwick but it clashed with RYT – I haven’t made it to Run Your Tongue and I missed seeing everyone and Dominic Berry was headlining. I hate it when events overlap but I also hate missing out and choosing.

Week 4:

Photo by Elvis on Pexels.com

Nearly two weeks of real-world work, which feels like months and evenings are harder to stay energised enough to fill with anything other than sleep. However, I had booked events before the contract was renewed for Lockdown and wanted to go to as many as I could manage.

At the end of December I was asked to contribute to two anthologies, the news of launch dates came through, more on this soon, exciting! As well as weekly classes I filled myself with the poetry of: Manuela Moser, Padraig Regan, Stephen Sexton at Poetry at the Lexicon, R.M Francis at Dear Listener, Richard Skinner, Bernard O’Donoghue and Anna Saunders at the Book Launch of Feverfew, Anna’s new collection. The weekend reading was by Dante Micheaux and I discovered Chrysalis and caught Inua Ellams in action. I finished the week at Culturama and had some poems workshopped with John Brantingham, who is also taking part in the Reader Series next week on the 27th.

Later on the same evening I attended a very special event hosted Susan Roney-O’Brien, a tribute reading for Patricia Fargnoli, Celebrating Pat Fargnoli. Pat (and many of the WCPA poets) took part in my Transatlantic Poetry Project in 2018, A Tale of Two Cities. It was a moving experience hearing a multitude of voices reading Pat’s work and I had not expected Pat to be able to read some too. It was an honour and a blessing to be there.

Week 5

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My main focus was to prepare my hour for the Reader Series this week. The great element of this event is you get to talk about the story behind the poems as well as read them. We each have an hour in a back to back series from 10:30am (PST). Unfortunately this series has been postponed until February and I am not free for a booking before April. I will be ready for whenever it is rebooked though. I also had one day where I slept after work for 5 hours and was too tired to boot the laptop up!

Over Lockdown 1 I enjoyed some of the Creative Conversations provided by Glasgow University. Earlier this month I discovered they were still programmed and can just about get home from work in time to catch some of them. Monday’s Creative Conversation was with Hannah Lavery. Hannah Lavery is a Scottish short story writer, poet, playwright and performer. Her poetry and prose has been published by Gutter Magazine, The Scotsman Newspaper, 404 Ink and others. Her poetry pamphlet, Finding Seaglass: Poems from The Drift was recently published by Stewed Rhubarb Press (May 2019). © National Theatre of Scotland

It was an enjoyable hour, a fantastic discussion and her poetry pamphlet, Finding Sea Glass is now on my wishlist!

I also attended a workshop with Sarah L. Dixon, which, as usual was great. Except I had tidied up my bookshelves and then we create book spine poems. I used the nook upstairs rather than piling all my books again in the lounge! It was a full afternoon and evening schedule. I received an email which tipped me off to a Talk by Don Paterson. I couldn’t resist the title (he claimed this is why he called his lecture this) ‘Why Bad Metaphors Destroy Everything’. In a few months I am rolling out some work around metaphor so that’s another reason my interest was peaked. This talk was from St Andrew’s Alumuni and is available online. Following this I went to the Brittle Star Magazine Launch, it was an enjoyable hour of poetry and a lovely launch. The lockdown has enabled us to attend lots of magazine launches which usually take place too far away to travel to. I set an alarm for Midnight and joined many people who were watching Poetry In America An Evening with Two Poet Laureates of the United States: Natasha Trethewey and Joy Harjo. Which was a moving experience.

Another wonderful magazine launch this week was the Poetry Review Winter Launch with the Poetry Society. Emily Berry was the Editor for this issue and we heard readings from four contributors: Graham Mort, Meredi Ortega, Rushika Wick and Jason Allen-Paisant.

Copyright © 2021 The Poetry Society

It was a powerful reading and a great way to spend an hour. I particularly enjoyed listening to Jason Allen-Paisant who wove a soulful magic with his words.

I have read the Poetry Review for years but it is special to hear the words from the mouths of the creators.

I am finishing the month with clashing events. Jane Hirshfield & Rachel Eliza Griffiths at Hudson Valley Writers and Rick Mullin & Nicca Ray at GWFM.

Photo by asim alnamat on Pexels.com

It always feel inappropriate to post about loss this way, especially tagged to the end of a review of the month. But I don’t feel I have the words to write more and as with other poetry friends I have lost this way, testimony has been posted elsewhere. I also feel I can’t get through looking back on January without this being here. Sadly, we lost a friend, a big part of our poetry community this month. It is a tragic loss and something I cannot find the right words for. The tight rawness of the situation has hit us all hard. He remains strong in our hearts.

Monday Meditations for the Writer’s Soul

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On one of my many internet searches a few weeks ago (for something completely different to this), I came across this website and signed up for Melanie Steele’s Guided Meditations.

They only take 5 minutes and land in your inbox along with a simple writing prompt weekly. This could just be the breather you’re looking for!

Click the link to find out more Monday Meditation.

For the Writer’s Soul is dedicated to supporting and inspiring writers. Our courses, meditations, and retreats help writers dispel the myths that hold them back, find their passion and their voice, and embrace the writer they can and should be.

Your Guide
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Melanie has spent years helping people find, embrace, and become their best selves. She has over 12 years of teaching and coaching experience, and she has been guiding writers through Retreat for the Writer’s Soul for more than 6 years. Through these guided meditations, she provides a beautiful combination of support, guidance, and inspiration.

© For the Writer’s Soul

January Gratitude List

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Inspired by listening to Inua Ellams, I focused on ‘we are lucky’ and we are and I have been, so I wanted to post some thanks for life so far this month. Lots has happened off screen that makes me appreciate this gift of a new year even more.

We haven’t reached the end of the month yet and there is already a long list of people and groups to thank. I am grateful that I finally have some work, even if a daily trip into the outside world scares me rigid. This was the first month since March 2020 that I haven’t had to worry about paying the bills. I am grateful that I do not live in an area of the county currently flooded. I have in the past lived by a river and canal that burst, back in the floods of 2007. My heart goes out to all the people having to deal with this right now. I am grateful that after 10 days of self isolation my partner shows no signs of Covid.

Thank you to all poets for generosity and spirit, for providing such top quality events during this time. For weekly workshops and poetry meets I thank: Rakaya Fetuga & the CARAF Centre, Redwing Judith Keyssar & the Meri Center UCSF and the wonderful people who make these groups the comfortable, expressive places they are. LA Marks for her fabulously fun thirty minute writing workshops/ Therapeutic Poetry & Society X. Celena Diane for her weekly classes and for creating a relaxed and caring Poets in Motion group. As well as keeping my mind and heart balanced, these groups welcome new and non-writers, many people have discovered the power of the pen during this pandemic.

I am grateful to all the organisations and individuals who take their time to provide events, readings, interviews and entertainment for us. I am grateful poets have engaged with online platforms and this has bought global mics to the forefront of weekly schedules.

To Helen Ivory & Martin Figura for opening up The Butchery and bringing spectacular poets to us every month, to the Lexicon for showcasing some incredible talent from Northern Ireland. To Trafford Libraries for the event with Rosie Garland and another chance to hear her read her new collection What Girls Do in the Dark. To New Writing North for hosting the Northern Writers’ Awards: Poetry Roadshow, to the speakers: poet Rommi Smith; poet and editor Jo Clement; poet and editor JT Welsch; and Hannah Bannister, Operations Manager of Peepal Tree Press. To Anna Saunders, the powerhouse behind Cheltenham Poetry Festival for launching Feverfew and giving generous time to Bernard O’Donoghue and Richard Skinner. This book launch buoyed my heart! To the National Centre for Writing for having a Lit Up scheme for Young People and for those enthusiastic members who created Chrysalis, for commissioning Inua Ellams to provide the 2020 Vision poem. To Writers & Books for bringing us Dante Micheaux to read from Circus (2018) and answer questions about his work.

To all those hosts and organisations who moved monthly open mic events online and provided awesome features. This month I particularly enjoyed returning to Fire & Dust and Run Your Tongue. Gratitude to the Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists for Yes We Cant and bringing us Luke Wright to kickstart January, to the Gloucestershire Poetry Society for Crafty Crows with David Clarke and Catherine Baker, for Fire & Dust and Clive Oseman for entertaining us, for Poets’ Cafe for giving Helen Ivory and Martin Figura the spotlight, for Cafe Writers featuring Sarah L. Dixon and Tom Sastry, to Oooh Beehive for bagging Elvis McGonagall and bringing him LIVE into our lounges, for Cheltenham Poetry Festival for Marvin Thompson and Simon Alderwick, for Run Your Tongue and Dominic Berry, for Dear Listener, bravely changing event formats monthly, this time featuring Rob Francis with a reading and Q&A.

To the library services around the UK who continue to provide support and opportunities for readers in the locale and beyond. Worcestershire Libraries and in particular The Hive have provided local poets many opportunities through the lockdown, but I am greedy and a lover of libraries, so the library I would love honorary membership to is Sheffield. Sheffield Libraries really rolled our the red literary carpet over the past 10 months providing so many groups and events that it would take a website to almanac them… of course they have a website! Go and check it out.

April 2020 –

Creativity during Corona

Sheffield Central Library hosts a wide range of regular groups, talks and workshops to spark creativity and connect people with culture and their community.  During these strange times we’ve temporarily closed the library and had to pause all of our face to face meetings.  However, there’s no reason for the creative process to falter, or for people to stop sharing their thoughts and enthusiasm for poetry and prose. In fact, perhaps more than ever, we all need to keep the creativity flowing.

Claire Walker is the creative dynamo behind the Central Library poetry and writing groups.

Ⓒ Sheffield Libraries

I am grateful for all the workshops Nik Perring did last year and for the outcome of the projects this month. I look forward to receiving my copy of the anthology produced, I had a sneaky on screen peek of it yesterday. And to Claire Walker at Central Library for providing inspiration and virtual spaces for sharing poetry and writing. During normal times Claire ran these groups at Central library and I have been delighted to join her Sheffield crew as they expanded across the globe. I look forward to these workshops and poetry gatherings. The hope season has been wonderfully positive.

I am grateful for workshops with these wonderful women: Zelda Chappel, Sarah L. Dixon, Cath Drake and Diane Kendig. Zelda ran a series last year which I thoroughly enjoyed, it made me feel like I did when I was first writing, the magic of writing. For 2021 she has developed a series of 4 classes, ‘Beginnings’, which can be taken as a block or individually. They are intense (in a good way). Sarah’s workshops run on a combination of Zoom and Facebook, there are always several interesting prompts and I always end up with a decent workshop poem to go away and bake and batter some more. Cath Drake produced wonderful opportunities last year to deal with Lockdown. As well as being a talented poet, she is trained in Mindfulness coaching, the session she delivered this month was powerful and necessary. I went to Refresh 2021 and we enjoyed several hours of meditation, deep thought and writing. My experience with Diane Kendig at the OPA workshop was great. It was a concentrated session and I learnt a lot about poetry from Ohio, we explored lots of form and came away with poetry written and a library of resources. I have pages of notes to go back and munch my way through.

I am grateful for a life filled with poetry!

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Inua Ellams 2020 Vision: A Reflection on the Year

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2020 Vision: A Reflection on the Year

© Henry Nicholls

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

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

Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

I feel so privileged that I caught the premier of this work and was there for the enlightening Q&A afterwards. What a brilliant end to a poetry filled morning. I started in Sheffield Library beforehand with Claire Walker’s Poetry group, this week looking at poems with plants/flowers/gardens. I woke to unrealised snow, childlike excitement hit my soul when I saw out the window!

It is always a pleasure to listen to Inua, he is incredibly insightful and generous in his tips and conversation around his work. It was great to hear his approach for this particular commission. I won’t paraphrase the entire hour, I am sure you will want to watch and enjoy.

But here is my positive take away: Be present. /Stay present. /Who I am? Why I am. /Stay weird/ Harness it – we are lucky.

Chrysalis: Transforming. Thinking. Writing.

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Chrysalis: Transforming. Thinking. Writing

Chrysalis – Sat. 23rd January

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

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

Reading Diversely

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

10.30 – 11.30am GMT

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

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

© Henry-Nicholls

2020 Vision: A Reflection on the Year

With Inua Ellams

12.30 – 1.30pm GMT

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

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

Alex Holmes

Workshop: Writing the Present

With Alex Holmes

2.15 – 3.45pm GMT

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

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

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

Lit From the Inside

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

© National Centre for Writing

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

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

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

Redditch Borough Poem Film

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Photo by Ingo Joseph on Pexels.com

Back in 2019 I had the pleasure of meeting Stewart Sanderson (Arts Development Officer/ Leisure and Cultural Services, Bromsgrove District & Redditch Borough Councils), he decided to unite the community in the Borough through poetry. He approached local poets to write a line or two about the town of Redditch.

By 2020 Covid kyboshed the original performance plans for this project and Stewart had to go back to the drawing board. But despite several Lockdowns he persevered and the results are now available to view.

It was a bit of a milestone for me, as filming happened in early Autumn. I had been self-isolating since March 22nd, my Furlough finished in August and I’d signed back with work, although there were no assignments. I had only been on local nature walks, to the Drs and to the supermarket, life contained in a 3 mile radius for more than half the year and I was terrified about the idea of going into the workplace. So I opted to film rather than shoot video from home. Maz did a spectacular job of stitching the films together.

The hope is this piece will help lift spirits at what is, for many of us, a challenging time... a real testament to the creative spirit and affection for Redditch locally. – Stewart Sanderson

This is just the teaser – I will share the video once it has been shared across the networks.