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!
Well we have all made it to the end of Week 1! By now you may have written 0-7 poems, however many you have managed to write they will all be poems which would not have existed without some of these prompts.
If you’re following from here or napowrimo.net you will have been given the option of reading 12 poems from 12 different poets, some of them established and some participants.
In watching the events and video resources you will have heard more poems than I can accurately estimate. By now your mind is swimming in words and there is no sign of the tide going out anytime soon… welcome to NaPoWriMo!
REFLECTION – WEEK 1
This week I have written 10 poems, of these I think several will go on further, 2 were the short form from today and 2 were written the day after the prompt – one from The Sun Ra Arkestra, (I’ve already established I could happily use the Day 1 prompt for the entire month) and one from the Universal Deck activity where I created and left it as word sculpture on the day and was then inspired to write the words into a poem after reading a participant’s featured poem.
IF I HAD TO PICK THE BEST BITS…
My favourite prompt this week: Day 5 “The Shapes a Bright Container Can Contain,”
Catching Treasure ~ New-to-me-Poets: Mairead Case, Kenyatta Rogers, Erika Hodges & Mary Szybist (Day 5), Sandra Beasley, Teri Ellen Cross Davis & Michael McClure (Day 3) and Monica de la Torre (Day 1).
I always enjoy discovering new resources and poets and this week has been a treasure trove.
SURVIVAL TIPS FOR NAPOWRIMO
Honestly… don’t worry!
Catch up if you can and if you want to…
Do not be held back by a prompt (unless you want the challenge).
Switch off your inner editor/critic.
Know that even writing you don’t consider any good is taking you somewhere.
At the end of the first week I thought it would be fun to leave 7 tips. Many of these will be happening naturally as you sit down to pen a poem each day.
No one is judging this process, it doesn’t matter if by the end of April you have 1 poem or 100.
It is easy to slip behind trying to balance a daily write with real life, if you fall behind you may find you can catch up later in the month if you feel it’s a poem you want to write.
There are plenty of poetry prompts all over the internet so find a different one or just go rogue. Write 3 words or 3 lines a poem doesn’t have to be an epic.
Quite often in my general poetry making my starting point will be a free write, thousands of poets work this way. If the thought of trying to write a poem feels impossible… just write.
This is one of the hardest challenges to overcome, that critic comes with their own remote and the mute button is glitchy. Just try your best, it takes years – but you can train them to sit quietly in the corner.
Often with a mass write there will be ‘wasted ink’ – something you consider rubbish. Sometimes people say ‘this is rubbish’ and then go on to read something fantastic out loud! Try to stop saying it’s rubbish or see it as rubbish…. all the writing you do takes you somewhere. You can’t expect it to be amazing everyday. Lower the expectation to – today I will write. Don’t even read it afterwards… we’re not editing yet.
You have no excuse this month. Every day the prompt provides at least 1 poem to read (reading includes listening to audio/ watching video), you may find your own rabbit holes or decide you want to find more work from a particular writer. Embrace the read. It will ALWAYS help develop and improve your writing.
There are many online events marking IWD – there are always Spoken Word and Poetry events that mark this day, the joy of this year was discovering the Creative Profiles on the main IWD site include poets.
Almost too many choices happening this evening, but you will find there are events throughout the week for IWD. I booked a ticket for an event tonight a long time ago, so haven’t even explored other events as I know I won’t be able to make them and then that just makes me feel frustrated.
A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day.
We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.
From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge.
International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.
IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organization specific.
For full information on Women Creatives click here.
Firstly, a poet I was lucky enough to meet and hear during the first Lockdown, Sharena Lee Satti. She has been snapped up by Verve Poetry Press.
Sharena Lee Satti is an independent spoken word artist, author and workshop facilitator who writes with her emotions to the fore, her heart at the centre, and a power that can leave peopple breathless.
“My poems are real, raw and honest – addressing issues like survival, cultural-identity, life’s battles, self-love, body dysmorphia and many subjects people struggle to speak out about,” says Sharena.
Writing has never been optional for Sharena Lee Satti. Like eating and breathing, it’s something integral to her existence. Everyday she is thankful to be able to make a small difference to society, sharing something she is deeply passionate about.
When you choose to challenge… through spoken word poetry
Spoken word is one of the most powerful forms of poetry because it passionately expresses the poet’s deepest thoughts while simultaneously engaging and inspiring listeners. So, spoken word poetry seems a perfect medium to reinforce and amplify this year’s International Women’s Day #ChooseToChallenge theme. Spoken word poets from around the world are stepping forward in solidarity to choose to challenge.
Anisa was born in Kampala, Uganda and later moved to Australia at the age of 8. Growing up in Australia, Anisa observed the vast distinctions between these two countries and the fundamental difference in living standards sparked her passion to use her voice to articulate her thoughts on social justice. Her poetry explores issues of race, feminism and politics – while employing her talent and wisdom to educate and engage people to have difficult and challenging conversations. Her often controversial work explores the complexities of being a child of diaspora, history and the importance of philosophical questioning. Anisa’s soulful and passionate performance style is incredibly moving.
Some of Anisa’s most influential poems see her confrontationally and powerfully explore concepts of identity, violence and worth.
Anisa has received a multitude of accolades, appeared at numerous high-profile events, and performed upon many prestigious stages including at the Sydney Opera house.
Anisa discusses her passion, struggles and inspiration
“I guarantee there are going to be moments where you want to give up – where you don’t think that you’re good enough or your ideas are good enough – but you have to be resilient enough to keep going…There are going to be days when no one believes in your idea but you, but you have to have belief in what you can see and what you can be in yourself,” says a young Anisa.
Aminah Rahman is an award-winning British-Bangladeshi poet and spoken word artist
Aminah Rahman is a 17-year-old award-winning published poet and spoken word artist born and raised in Cambridge, UK. She is a third-generation British-Bangladeshi with over 60 years of family history in Cambridge. She has been writing poetry since she was eight years old. Most of her poetry focuses on fighting racism and celebrating who we are as individuals.
To support the International Women’s Day #ChooseToChallenge theme and to call upon further spoken word poets to step forward and use their voice to influence positive change, Aminah crafted an inspiring poem “Changing the Future”.
Aminah’s mission is to break down any barriers that could stop people from reaching their potential, and she hopes to connect to the souls of many people who draw comfort from her words.
“I believe that it is important to be there for one another. I remember when I wrote my first rap ‘Accept Me Please’, after hearing stories about tackling racism. I ran up the stairs, taking two steps at a time as so many ideas came flooding in to me, and then I put pen to paper,” she explains. “I had never written so quickly! It was an incredible feeling knowing that I had my first rap right in front of my eyes. Poetry has enabled me to learn about the world around me and most importantly who I am as an individual.”
Winner of prestigious awards and accolades
Aminah wrote her first poetry collection Poems by Aminah in 2016. She then wrote Soul Change, her next collection of poems about social issues that affect humanity today. Five of Aminah’s poems have been published in Young Writers UK anthologies. Aminah is featured in the June 2020 edition of Writing Magazine, the UK’s biggest and bestselling magazine for writers, where she talks about her passion for poetry. Aminah was also recognised as one of the ‘Top 6 Most Influential Muslim Youth’ in Hayati Magazine, Nigeria’s #1 Muslimah fashion and lifestyle magazine.
She was the winner of the Young Muslim Writers Awards Key Stage 2 Poetry category in 2015. In 2017, she was the joint winner of the Cambridge News and Media Education Awards: Pupil of the Year award. She also took part in the BBC Upload Festival 2020, a festival that showcases talent from across England and the Channel Islands. Aminah represented Cambridgeshire with her poem ‘Please’. She has spoken at numerous events, actively promoting inclusion and diversity.
Using poetry to understand the people and the world
Poetry can be a powerful mechanism for change. For Aminah, it is the heartbeat for change.
It helps her to understand and appreciate the way the world is today. Poetry is a form of expression that helps her to process her thoughts and feelings. Writing and reading poetry helps her to see things from a different perspective.
For Aminah, words are the best reflections. “Poetry helps me to empathise with others and it leads us to love. It also helps me to understand my own identity. My journey has helped me to discover my own voice. Poetry is a powerful gift because it addresses feelings which can be hard to describe. Poetry brings us together,” she adds.
I will be celebrating with some women I know this evening.
And I couldn’t post IWD without a link back to one of the many anthology collections I edited/curated as Worcestershire Poet Laureate in 2018. This one came from a Mini Workshop I facilitated in The Hive, based on the wonderful exhibition they displayed to mark 100 years of votes for women/ the Suffragette Movement. Those women certainly chose to challenge! #ChooseToChallenge.
I was the 7th WPL and the 4th woman to take the role, my plate was very full 3 years ago, so for IWD I created this call out IWD which resulted in this brilliant post all about female poets and inspirational & influential women. Many listed are friends of mine and poets I know, I have now (in the past 3 years read all of them), maybe you will find a new read somewhere in there and they are all STRONG women!
I couldn’t quite leave it there – I created this post with the former female Worcestershire Poets Laureate – Maggie Doyle (2012-13), Heather Wastie (2015-16) & Suz Winspear (2016-17) celebrating their work and influential women in their lives.
It’s IWD – it can’t pass without another watch of Amanda Gorman!
I have always been a letter writer, at 13 I had 33 International pen-pals and many of us wrote well into our 20s and have since found each other via social media! Lifelong friendships. I used to love receiving post… nowadays it is mainly business and bills but occasionally someone sends me gold. I was overjoyed to see this… although (typically) it is a no-post day for me. A wonderful gesture from the Royal Mail.
Millions observe Royal Mail’s significant #ChooseToChallenge awareness raising efforts
Thank you to the UK’s Royal Mail for celebrating International Women’s Day, raising community awareness, and amplifying the call-to-action to #ChooseToChallenge. Royal Mail’s special #IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge postmark is being applied to millions of stamped mail items over three days of the International Women’s Day period.
Important support for women’s empowerment
Royal Mail’s special moment-related postmarking provides an important opportunity to amplify key messsages, mobilize positive action, and engage communities.
Not only will women appreciate the organization’s support in reinforcing equality, but the #IWD2021 #ChoooseToChallenge postmarking is relevant to all genders inviting people to courageously step forward and call out stereotyping, bias and discrimination.
An iconic organization where women choose to work, Royal Mail is one of the oldest organizations in the world, and can trace its origins back over 500 years to 1516.
They are also one of the UK’s largest employers and mantain a solid focus on diversity and equal opportunity within its workforce.
Royal Mail Group has a strong community engagement focus which provides an important opportunity for its people to interact and build relationships with the communities they serve – and this is of benefit to both parties.The organization’s ongoing commitment to community engagement is significant.
Alison Evans is from Sacramento in California, USA and her design focuses on challenging and calling out gender bias and inequity. ” I love the empowerment in the message and knew I had to create something that not only celebrates the day, but shows solidarity with the mission,” she says.
“I like to serve up positive, uplifting art with a side of feminism and pop culture. The main focus of my work is based on my own personal experiences with mental health, feminism and being raised by the television screen. While most of my work is focused on illustration, my main inspiration and motivation is typography, lettering and calligraphy.”
“My concept behind my IWD design is that I really wanted to embody the celebration of women’s achievements and promote a sense of inclusion and togetherness. Hands are something I gravitate towards illustrating, so I thought that holding hands would be a perfect depiction of that idea. I also wanted to incorporate the international symbol for women, and decided to include that with the background pattern.”
“For the process, the program I use for all of my lettering/typography/illustration is Procreate. I started with the message: ‘Happy International Women’s Day’ and decided I wanted to have that as the biggest element in the design. I sketched the lettering out first and realized that I had a blank spot underneath the lettering portion. As mentioned, I enjoy drawing hands so I thought this would be a perfect addition to the design at the bottom. I sketched those until they fit how I wanted them to, then went back and lettered the writing, and designed the ribbon-like texture to it. After that, I finalized the hands and colored them in. I always have a problem selecting colors, so that part took a long time, but I finally settled on a darker background so that the messaging popped.”
“When it comes to IWD, I believe that as a society we need to celebrate women’s successes and stand up for gender parity in every aspect of life. Although I would love if everyday could be International Women’s Day, it is nice that we can set aside one day where we can focus our efforts on raising awareness about equality and come together for a common cause to celebrate the achievements the world has made in the goal of gender equity and inclusion.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tickets £7; £5 to current supporters of the Wordsworth Trust.
Simon Armitage was born in West Yorkshire and is an award-winning poet, playwright and novelist. In 2010 he was awarded the CBE for services to poetry and in 2019 he was appointed Poet Laureate. This year we have invited him to take over Dove Cottage for an exclusive performance of his own poetry, bringing to life the house that Wordsworth lived in 200 years ago.
It is nearly time for NaPoWriMo, an annual flurry of poetry writing. Find out more here.
They have a few starter activities just for fun. The silly test mentioned in this post gives you a chance to choose Bot or Not. I had a 70% success rate. A great party game for the self isolating at this time.
If, like me you enjoy this writing month you will just be pleased to see the site back up and running and the new banners and buttons for 2020.
The Two Days to Gopost invites us to go and look at Patrick Stewart’s twitter account where he is reading Shakespeare’s sonnets, I have happily already discovered this already (and retweeted) but it serves to remind me that one of the things I LOVE about NaPo is discovering resources and new to me poets and poems. Also the participants sites can be a great find too.
Here on AWF I am always a participating site but never (or rarely ever) post a NaPo poem as this affects the copyright and means I may not be able to publish them. You will write a lot of rubbish over the next few weeks – give yourself that permission, nothing is wasted. It’s all worth it for those few poems that do work, that do go on to grow up and get published, for the ones you include in your next collection, for the ones that speak to your heart.
The day before NaPo starts there is always an Early Bird post to get you warmed up and started. So this is not a drill – take a deep breath and get ready to dive in with us!
Hello, all! Tomorrow is April 1, and the first day of NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo 2020! But since April 1 arrives a bit earlier in some parts of the globe than the east coast of the United States, we have an early-bird resource and prompt for you.
Today’s resource is The Slowdown, a daily poetry podcast hosted by former U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith. Podcasts are a nice way to add some poetry to your life. They also give you a chance to hear the rhythm of poetry out loud. Sometimes it can be very surprising, if you’ve been reading a poet on the page for many years, to hear their voice out loud, and realize it’s much different than the voice you’ve been giving that same poet in your head.
And now, in the spirit of an early-bird prompt, I’d like to invite you to write a poem about your favorite bird. As this collection of snippets from longer poems suggests, birds have been inspiring poets for a very long time indeed!
If you don’t have a favorite bird, or are having trouble picking one, perhaps I might interest you in myfavorite bird, the American Woodcock? These softball-sized guys are exactly the color of the leaves on the floor of a Maine forest, and they turn up each spring to make buzzy peent noises, fly up over meadows in elaborate courtship displays, and to do little rocking dances that YouTube jokesters delight in setting to music.
They are also quite odd looking, as every part of their body appears to be totally out of proportion with the rest. For a poetic bonus, they also have many regional nicknames. In Maine, they’re often called “timberdoodles,” but other regionalisms for them include “night partridge,” “mudbat,” “prairie turtle,” Labrador twister,” “bogsucker,” “wafflebird,” “billdad,” and “hokumpoke.”
Tomorrow we’ll be back with another resource, prompt, and our first featured participant.
During the podcast, Tracy recites Interesting Times by Mark Jarman. Bedlam right now during the Coronavirus, for sure. The words resonate with double meaning right now. An echo of the//for the global crisis.
Choking on these lines;
Everything’s happening on the cusp of tragedy,
We’ve been at this historical site before, but not in any history we remember.
To know the stars will one day fly apart so far they can’t be seen
Is almost a relief. For the future flies in one direction—toward us.
This is where the madness began (NaPo madness is normal – it starts with the research/ search engines then pages later leads you someplace else and (hopefully) back again)!
I read the snippets and then watched the videos of Maureen’s chosen bird and it hit me, WA – and the magnificent birds of Perth – as it fits my current project. That’s another NaPo GOLD-DUST tip: if you can bend the prompts to fit creative projects you are trying to fulfil – this isn’t always possible but when it is – it is GOLDEN – as often we are forced to write beyond ourselves.
I then watched a series of videos before I decided on the one. It has been made from photographs rather than footage but the pictures have magically captured the music of the birds. I am yet to pen a poem as I am getting a set ready for this evening. But I will… (the NaPo promise to yourself).
I watched the video and made a list of over 10 Australian birds, then chose one by looking for images of the species. I then searched for facts and went back to my research document to highlighted key fact on appearance and movement. I harvested a few images to study & wrote a short 5 line poem about the Royal Spoonbill.
Our Archive is open for the final time this weekend. Find articles, workshops. reviews, Interviews and writing to keep you busy for the next few hours before the exciting launch of the final WPL issue of Contour Poetry Magazine.
From 2014 our Guest Writer William Gallagher talks to us about Making Time to Write.
This workshop was devised with Young Writer’s in mind… we were all young once upon a time and still are at heart… so give it a go.
Guest Writer Workshop with Kevin Brooke
The Sealed Envelope
Young Writer’s Workshop on the theme of A Sealed Envelope with the story to be written in approximately 300 words
In giving advice to a writer, J K Rowling has been quoted as saying “Write the story as well as you can, revise it, refine it, and if it still seems alive to you, you’re done”.
The items each student requires are to complete the workshop are – a pen, some paper and an imagination.
The Workshop begins with each student being handed a sealed envelope
Please don’t open this as yet, because this is crucial in the creation of your story. All you need to do to begin with, is think about what is inside the envelope. Write down a few ideas of what it could be, for example, a letter, pictures, symbols, something else?
Now that you have some idea of what’s inside, I want you to think about who or what would send it to you? Try and picture them, imagine what they’d look like. Are they young / old / a boy / a girl / an alien / a Vampire / a goblin?
If you are struggling, have a look around the room to see if there is something that catches your eye or inspires you. If you are in a library, have a look at some of the books on the shelves and focus on what you can see on the front covers / internal illustrations.
Now that you have a picture of what is inside the envelope and who may have sent it, try to think of a reason why? For example, is it a threat, a wish of goodwill, a symbol of hope / disaster or a cry for help or even a goodbye?
Now we have a character and a reason why the envelope has been sent. The next stage is to try and imagine where they were when they sent it. Were they on the beach, on the moon, hidden in a wardrobe, inside a dungeon? Draw some pictures if this helps.
The story you have written so far should tell you whether it will be a happy ending, an open ending, or a sad / violent ending…read the story, think about the character, the setting. Read it through your notes several times – the ending is there if you think about it. The most important aspect is that the resolution must be based on how you think the story should end.
How? First of all, don’t forget the basic checklist
300 words isn’t many. Try to keep characters to a minimum – maybe one main character and a maximum of two others.
Use dialogue if you can as this brings the characters alive.
Try not to use too many adverbs i.e. words ending in ‘ly’. If the man is tall, we don’t need to know he is really tall. Tall is usually enough.
Try to be specific i.e. instead of ‘she ate a pizza’ maybe think of the ingredients i.e. ‘spicy pepperoni with mushrooms’. In this way, the reader not only knows the details of what is on the pizza, they gain a sense of taste.
Avoid clichés – one way of doing this by using Imagery. As Stephen King is quoted as saying “see everything before you write it”. Try, therefore, to visualise every sentence you write and then write what you see.
Another way of bringing your story alive is by experiencing what your character is experiencing. If they go into a forest, do this for yourself, make some notes on what you saw, felt, heard or smelt and use these in your story.
Reading your work aloud
I’m a great believer in the notion that story telling is best told live. It provides the storyteller with a few, powerful minutes to take us to their alternative world, wherever it may be. In addition, if you are reading to others, listen to their feedback – they might tell you something you hadn’t considered, but something that could transform the entire story.