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!
Summer’s late to the UK this year and so is my May review. I didn’t manage to finish the content in time before getting swept up with festival programming. Rather than leave people out I decided to delay the post.
Better late, than never… May.
May and June are always Festival busy and life online is no different. I also had a few exciting projects I was working on, so it has been another packed month.
The Stay at Home! Literary Festival celebrated a 2nd year of stunning, FREE events and brought us a fortnight packed with Readings, Interviews, Workshops, Panel Discussions and Books! It was fantastic.
You can read my posts about the SAHLF events starting here.
Saboteur Awards Festival (10th – 15th May) The team have been working hard on how to adapt the awards to a digital platform for the 2nd year and have introduced the Saboteur Awards Festival -a Panel Discussion, Workshop, Reading Series ‘specifically to promote work that had been impacted by the pandemic and/or the various lockdowns throughout the UK’. At the end of the festival this year’s winners will be announced and then you can lock forward to the Spotlight Winners Series running all the way into June.
https://www.stayathomefringe.co.uk (11th -26th May ) The Still-at-Home! Fringe Fest is the punk-brat little sister of the award-winning Stay-at-Home Literary Festival. Now a year old, and on our third festival, we’re letting loose one last time because we’re still at home!
MASS Poetry Festival (13th – 16th May) This was an absolutely packed programme of events – ‘more than 50 events in total featuring well over 100+ poets‘ – no wonder it’s a biennial event! The festival is a mix of in place events and virtual. I attended a lot of MASS PF workshops and have always had an eye on this one so it is a delight to be in a position to join in.
This was an incredible festiand I am so glad I had a chance to catch it and be part of it online.
I was delighted to see the Urban Tree Festival back after its award winning 2020 Festival.
‘2021 marks the Urban Tree Festival’s fourth year As lockdown eases in the UK, we hope to bring some on-the-ground events and activities, however, the majority of the Urban Tree Festival is online. Building on the success of our entirely on-line festival last year, that introduced us to new audiences across the UK and far beyond…’
There were lots of great readings this week. Cheltenham Poetry Festival had more wonderful offerings, I went to the reading by Jonathan Davidson and Wendy Pratt. It was a joy. Pavillion Poets 2021 Reading (Liverpool University Press), featuring Alice Miller, Alice Hiller & SarahWestcott. I enjoyed the fine new work from these poets.
I managed to catch a wonderful reading at White Whale Book Store, with Adrienne Su reading from her latest collection peach state. She was joined by Kazim Ali & Erika Meitner. It was another reading worth staying awake for. Beautiful event. The flipside of no work for a 5th week… meant I managed to get back to the Live Canon Lunchtime reading series and enjoyed sets from: Nora Nadjarian, Benjamin Cusden, Sara Levy and Jeffery Sugarman.
I experienced the final MASS PF PEM Museum Workshop with Kirun Kapur which was a delightful look at epistolary poetry. Well worth staying up late for. I am now busy crafting these poems.
After seeing Rachel Bower again at SAHLF this year, I was delighted to discover her‘Glimmers: Writing out of the Ordinary’ Workshop with Union Street (which had a similar theme to the workshop I planned for Cheltenham Poetry Festival Freeverse series this month). And I found it just in time to attend this wondrous hour!
I took part in the final (of a series) Mindful Poetry Workshops with The Well. This week was Sarah Yeung of SKY Sound Yoga who opened our time with a sound meditation. And, Eddie Gonzalez, Director of Engagement at The On Being Project who led the poetry workshop. It was a fantastic experience to be a part of. I am now baking these poems too.
I finally submitted toIS&T earlier this year, a magazine I have read for years. I was delighted to have a poem accepted by them ‘Where We Begin’, was featured on the 2nd May.
Was a whirlwind of real world work, readings, workshops and multiple festivals. I also managed to make a submission and craft some new poems.
Live from The Butchery hosted another fabulous afternoon of poetry with Tim Liardet, Jennifer Militello, Jenny Pagdin and a week later were announced as winners of the Best Regular Spoken Word Night Saboteur Award 2021 , acategory full of stiff competition, so kudos to the team.
Followed by an equally exceptional evening at Cafe Writers featuring Tiffany Atkinson and support from Tristan Coleshaw & Eve Esfandiari Denney.
I did my usual sessions Line Breaks and Bronx Beats with Peggy Roubles-Alvarado which is always fast, furious fun and Redwing’s groups. The WLF team started finalising mini-festival 2021 plans and I had some wonderful readings and workshops from the Saboteur Festival and MASS Poetry Festival.
I made it to most of the Poetry Business Spring Launch and caught up on rewatch. Evesham Festival of Words have also been producing events online. I managed to get to Home and Away featuring the Cheltenham Poetry Festival – Anna Saunders, Ben Ray and Zoe Brooks.
I also missed some events and readings as I was working.
The festival events continued and a workshop I had been looking forward to for a long time with Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seaton. Great things have come from this session ‘Collision, Collusion & Craft’.
I enjoyed a workshop with Sarah L. Dixon and a Fair Acre Book Launch for Carl Tomlinson and Annie Freud’s wonderful launch event ‘Hiddensee’ with Jacqueline Saphra.
Last Autumn I was booked by Cheltenham Poetry Festival for the Freeverse Programme to facilitate a poetry workshop day. The theme I chose was‘Finding Fortune’and it was a pleasure to provide a bespoke Freeverse Workshop for this project.
To wind down afterwards I joined the Urban Tree Festival for Sounds of Plants with Planet Utopia. I discovered a while back the magic of tree communication – it was wonderful to hear it and lovely to be part of such a laid back hour.
I also caught another reading with Adrienne Su, for Caltech, a wonderfully generous event.
The organisation of Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe Festival ran full steam. I was busy with the tech side of the our 2nd Digital Mini Festival. Preparing for pre-festival meetings and Poet Laureate interviews as well as organising events and herding poets (and everyone knows we are like cats or badly behaved sheep)!
I had to miss events due to work and carved out one evening away from the desk.
I missed at lot of the Still-at-Home! Fringe LitFest (Fringe for SAHLF) – or as marketed, the punk-brat little sister of the award-winning Stay-at-Home Literary Festival. I did manage to get to enjoy Tawnya Renelle’s workshop and one at the Urban Tree Festival – Writing Wood Words with Electra Rhodes and the other with Chris Vox on ‘Serendipity’ as part of the SAHLFringe Festival. As well as a Magma Poetry Talk and I managed a couple of submissions.
I spent my weekend at a variety of festivals, went to a couple of workshops we had the 2021 Worcestershire Poet Laureate Interviews and I finally made it back to USA open mic with Great weather for Media. I missed some submissions, due to work commitments. I arranged an interview in June for BBC Hereford & Worcester radio. And the HAY Festival began with an amazing Gala event.
Sadly this year I didn’t make it to all the events I had hoped to catch at HAY. I haven’t been able to work properly for 2 years, so I am currently snapping jobs every time they come. I managed to catch some before they disappeared into Hay Player – which has a reasonable rate for an annual subscription. I was working and full of cold. I had lost my voice completely when 42Worcester came about and so for the 2nd time this year (after not missing any for the best part of 5 or 6 years) I missed it again, I managed to pop on for a few readings and then had to leave. I had managed to pen an on theme poem in my lunch hour and was fully prepared to join in.
I thought I had a quiet(ish) weekend to finish the month, especially after three weeks of work… but then, along came The Black Country Living Museum with a whole day of workshops facilitated by the Poets, Prattlers and Pandemonialists as part of the Loff Out Loud Festival, a Sheffield Libraries event and HAY.
May was finished off at the WWBPA where we celebrated Walt Whitman’s 202nd Birthday with a presentation of artwork and film inspired by Leaves of Grass. It was marvellous curation and an enjoyable watch.
This is the final part of my MASS PF write up, sadly I missed the Headline event which closed the festival but it was a fantastic weekend and I feasted well.
Sunday 16th May
The final day was absolutely superb! I started with a workshop.
Chaotic? Good!: Harnessing the Power of the Happy Accident in Your Poetry
James Merrill used a Ouija board to commune with the spirits of the dead. He got 560 pages out of it. French Surrealists described their dreams, Tracy K. Smith took an eraser to the Declaration of Independence, and Jericho Brown writes lines on slips of paper that he slides around until something interesting pops out.
In this workshop, we’ll use techniques such as erasure, web-surfing, tarot decks, and more to help attendees relinquish some control to outside forces (and the unconscious) during the drafting and revision stages of their processes. This can create work that functions less by logic than by juxtaposition, association, the element of surprise–what Robert Bly called poetic “leaping.”
Maria Pinto is a writer, educator, and mushroom enthusiast. She teaches at GrubStreet, reads for The Drum, and Peripheries, and has been awarded fellowships by Vermont Studio Center, The Writers’ Room of Boston, The Mastheads, and Garret on the Green. Find her work in Frigg, Necessary Fiction, and Cleaver.
Emily Franklin’s work has been published in the New York Times, Guernica, the Cincinnati Review, New Ohio Review, Shenandoah, Blackbird, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Rumpus, Passages North, The Journal, and Cimarron Review. Her poetry collection Tell Me How You Got Here was published by Terrapin Books in February 2021.
Walter Smelt’s poems have appeared in Colorado Review, Subtropics, Poetry East, Redivider, and Peripheries, and his translations of poems in The Battersea Review, and the Harvard Divinity Bulletin. Originally from Florida, he lives in Massachusetts and teaches English for Bunker Hill Community College and creative writing for GrubStreet.
Maya Demissie’s work has appeared in Monologue Project, a student publication, and they are the news managing editor of The Newtonite, their school newspaper. They also co-host Miamas, a storytelling podcast for students at their high school.
It was very interactive, we discussed finding inspiration, we played with form and poetry. Dynamic play with ideas from each of the panel. We all created some surprising work and it was experimental and great fun! Enlightening alchemy!
Every Place Has Its Story: Writing About Region
Mark Doty will moderate a panel discussion with Alice Kociemba, Robin Smith-Johnson and Rich Youmans, co-editors of From the Farther Shore: Discovering Cape Cod and the Islands Through Poetry (Bass River Press, 2021). Mark Doty will give an overview of the anthology and lead the editors in a discussion about how they conceived, selected, and organized the poems in order to bring the region to life.
They will then read a selection that illustrates how poetry can capture the spirit of the region—its history, its people, its landmarks, its industries, and its beauty.
Robin Smith-Johnson teaches at Cape Cod Community College. She is the author of two books of poetry: Dream of the Antique Dealer’s Daughter (Word Poetry, 2013), and Gale Warnings (Finishing Line Press, 2016), as well as being a co-founder of the Steeple Street Poets. Robin lives in Mashpee, MA.
Alice Kociemba is a co-editor of From the Farther Shore: Discovering Cape Cod and the Islands Through Poetry (Bass River Press, forthcoming) along with Robin Smith-Johnson and Rich Youmans. She is founding director of Calliope Poetry and is the author of Bourne Bridge (Turning Point, 2016).
Rich Youmans’s work has appeared in diverse publications, including Contemporary Haibun Online (where he currently serves as editor in chief), Cape Cod Poetry Review, the Cape Cod Times, and The Best Small Fictions 2020 (Sonder Press). He lives in North Falmouth with his wife, Alice Kociemba.
Mark Doty is the author of more than ten books of poetry, most recently Deep Lane (W.W. Norton, 2015), and three memoirs, including What Is the Grass: Walt Whitman in My Life (W.W. Norton, 2020). Fire to Fire, his volume of new and selected poems, won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2008l He is a Distinguished Professor at Rutgers University and lives in New York City.
This event, as advertised was geographically local in content. The Cape Cod area is an area I am still to explore – but listening in to the panel discussion certainly gave me a real sense of place. It was a most enjoyable hour.
They all talked about poetry as well as landscape and landmarks. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour in words.
Headline Reading with Ariana Reines and Patricia Spears Jones
Sponsored by The Shipman Agency with an opening reading by Jennifer Martelli.
Patricia Spears Jones is the recipient of The Jackson Poetry Prize, one the most prestigious awards for American Poets via Poets & Writers, Inc. The $50,000 prize is among the most substantial given to an American poet and is designed to provide what all poets need: time and encouragement to write. She is the eleventh winner. In language that is simultaneously sensuous, wise-cracking, explicit, and rollicking, Spears Jones describes a world rich in beauty and longing, with pain tempered always by joy.
Ariana Reines is an award-winning poet, playwright, and translator. Her most recent book of poetry is A Sand Book (Tin House, 2019), which was longlisted for the National Book Award. Her other books include Tiffany’s Poems (Song Cave, 2015); Ramayana (Song Cave, 2015); The Origin of the World (Semiotext(e), 2014); Beyond Relief (Belladonna*, 2013); Thursday (Spork Press, 2012); Mercury (Fence Books, 2011); Coeur de Lion (Fence Books, 2007); and The Cow (Fence Books, 2006). Her poems have been anthologized in Corrected Slogans (Triple Canopy, 2013); Miscellaneous Uncatalogued Materials (Triple Canopy, 2011); Against Expression (Northwestern University Press, 2011); and Gurlesque (Saturnalia, 2010). Reines has been described as “one of the crucial voices of her generation” by Michael Silverblatt on NPR’s Bookworm. In 2020, she won the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. She’s been a MacDowell Fellow, has judged the National Poetry Series, and writes regularly for ArtForum.
Jennifer Martelli is the author of MyTarantella (Bordighera Press), awarded an Honorable Mention from the Italian-American Studies Association, selected as a 2019 “Must Read” by the Massachusetts Center for the Book, and named as a finalist for the Housatonic Book Award. Her chapbook, After Bird, was the winner of the Grey Book Press open reading, 2016. Her work has appeared in Thrush, Verse Daily, Iron HorseReview (winner, Photo Finish contest), The Sycamore Review, Cream City Review, The Bitter Oleander, and Poetry. Jennifer Martelli has twice received grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for her poetry. She is co-poetry editor for Mom Egg Review and co-curates the Italian-American Writers Series.
Jennifer Martelli facilitated the only MASS PF Workshop I missed this year, back in February. It was great to hear her read.
Ariana Reines talked about generational trauma and guilt, her mother’s mental illness, the conflict in Israel and immigration, the reality of being an immigrant. It was certainly not what I expected from the reading but it was obvious she needed to speak her truth at this moment in time. As she said – it is a matter of the heart and she wanted to speak from the heart.
Ariana Reines & Patricia Spears Jones shared powerful poetry!
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.”
February arrived and I could barely believe January was over! Another month fully booked and brimming with adventure… and more snow! After suffering several lack work years, work came like buses and I said YES to it all. So right from the get go I was aware of pacing myself. I worked full time for a couple of weeks, balanced deadlines with new ventures, took on a new role and celebrated Mr G’s birthday, Valentine’s and other family celebrations and finished the month off with a Poetry Festival! Perfect! This is certainly one of the longest review posts for a while, you may want to munch through it in several sittings!
The first day of the month threw treasure at me, I started a new course with Tawnya Renelle – Experimenting with… it was inspiring as ever and started me in a new direction with some material I have been chewing over for a while. I even created a sketch! There is a shiny new website/platform and lots of resources to get my teeth into (especially now I have finished chewing)!
I also had some happy news hit the inbox, after a two year hiatus (health + pandemic) I am back with the DAN team supporting them with an online Poetry Extravaganza again. AND…. last year I completed the Poetry Renewed Project and my commission with Elephant’s Footprint to produce 10 animated Poetry Films. One of these, ‘Territory’ has been shown at the ReelpoetryFestival in Houstonthis month (24th Feb.) – the joy is abundant! https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2021/02/27/reelpoetry-festival-houston-tx/
I made some submissions with close deadlines and applied for more work. Which was time consuming and exciting. I had proof copies of Recoil 12 back from MullaMulla Press, I had a poem accepted by Literary AlchemyPress, an online magazine I discovered last year. They have taken a poem I wrote in an Angela France workshop and one I am particularly fond of. In addition to that, by publishing it they have become an International Press, which is brilliant for them!
Connect Dudley, (a project I was commissioned for back in May 2020 during the 1st Lockdown) is coming to the third leg. Rick Sanders facilitated community workshops where participants wrote letters over several weeks, in the 2nd leg Rick and I turned these letters into poems and shared them with the participants. We also completed an interview with the funders, CoLab and recorded audio of our work (which is connected to the High Street poems via QR codes).
Rick is now in possession of some very shiny and graphically exciting posters of the poems which will go up in empty shops in Dudley’s High Street over the next 5-10 weeks and I am booked for a reading later this month which will be a webinar and Q&A. It was a wonderful project that has helped many people and I am honoured to have been a part of it.
I caught an interview withCasey Bailey – Birmingham Poet Laureate, on Midlands News, which made me happy and I had my final workshop class with Zelda Chappel. It was on Life and Death – so not a light subject but it was a wonderful few hours, I have loved being part of this group and the work we have covered has uncovered some of those poems that have been living inside me. Now the hard work begins to get them fully formed.
I would recommend Zelda’s classes they are great fun and she has a wonderful way of facilitating 2 hours of intense writing and reading in such a relaxed and caring way you leave in a state of cleansed tiredness, definitely lighter and happier and with ink that is worth page space. It has been a January/February highlight. You can book the full course of just choose a week that you feel pulls you in. Most of our group did all 4 sessions. I first met Zelda through Jo Bell’s 52 project back in 2014, we read at the same event in London and have been following each other ever since. Do check out her poetry.The Girl in the Dog tooth Coat by Zelda Chappel.
I had the pleasure of attending a Book Launch, Nature at a Cost a first collection for Annie Ellis. I was tired but I wouldn’t have missed this Launch for the world. I am delighted for Annie. It was a lovely to watch her excitement as Guest Readers shared some of their own poetry and read poems picked from new collection. Annie’s Special Guests were Ben Ray, Anna Saunders, Zoe Brooks and Ankh Spice.
I recently discovered we landed in poetry around the same time, when I first met Annie (back in 2015), I thought she was an established writer. Annie’s collection has been described by Ankh Spice as ‘a clarion call to find the edges we have forgotten’, and by Ben Ray as ‘a haunting love letter to the natural world’.
The weekend saw more events and workshops withRedwing, Rakaya Fetuga & Sarah L. Dixon. Nine Arches Press celebrated the launch of Jacqueline Saphra‘s One Hundred Lockdown Sonnets. I watched the conception of this back in 2020 and have read a good number of Jacqueline’s sonnets, several poets joined her but most managed 80 something sonnets. This is not just another collection of Lockdown thoughts and poems, these are sonnets that in years to come will form a historical record and someone suggested may linger in our heads like lines of Shakespeare’s sonnets. It was also a treat to hear her Guest Poets: Anja Konig, Miriam Nash, Jacob Sam-La Rose and video readings from Ian McMillan & Naomi Shihab Nye.
If you missed it you can treat yourself now.
Sunday saw a warm gathering for Live from The Butchery and some stunning performances by: Annie Freud, Jane Burn & Anja Konig. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and it felt like the perfect end to the weekend, except there was more!
I have a few favourite landing places in America that I’ve discovered throughout the lockdowns and many offer free events. I am lucky enough to be working again but after the past 2 years the surplus spends are absorbed by previous bills so I am still not in a position to pay booking fees let alone ticket costs. Which is a great shame as there are lots of opportunities around at the moment – including a workshop with Carolyn Forché at the Kendal Poetry Festival. A festival I will get time to write about soon as I’ve spent an amazing 9 days with Clare Shaw and Kim Moore to complete the month!
I spent an inspiring night with Carolyn Forché & Lori Soderlind, thanks to Hudson Valley Writers Center. It was a deeply moving and inspiring event and I loved both readings. I have become a big fan of Carolyn’s work over this pandemic year. I received an order for In the Lateness of the World (Penguin Press, 2020) for Christmas and it should be arriving next week!
Carolyn Forché is an award winning author of poetry and prose. Renowned as a “poet of witness,” Carolyn Forché is the author of five books of poetry. Her most recent collection, In the Lateness of the World (Penguin Press, 2020), is a tenebrous book of crossings, of migrations across oceans and borders but also between the present and the past, life and death.
I loved discovering Lori and the story behind her work.
I wrote a proposal which took a lot longer than I expected. I’ve written a few applications this year and one of these was for Mass Poetry Festival in May. I was keeping my fingers crossed for a positive outcome on this and gathering some of the poets together again. Unfortunately it was rejected via a very kind email. Four years ago I started my Laureate Legacy Project (2017), a Transatlantic poetry exchange with Worcester, UK and Worcester MA, A Tale of Two Cities. You can read all about it here. And read the publication, Special Issue of Contour here. Many of the poets have gone on to republish their poems in other anthologies and collections.
In the UK we launched the project at Droitwich Arts Festival 2018 as part of the Poetry Extravaganza event, USA had an event at The Sprinkler Factory in September and then in 2019 it was part of the Evesham Festival of Words. I had hoped to role out a lot more with this massive project, there were plans but due to health issues and then COVID nothing has happened since. Evesham was booked in the summer of 2018 when I was 100% fit and not expecting an operation, it was only through the support of friends that I managed to get to the Festival and undertake the organisation of the event. So when I saw the call for MASS Poetry Festival I thought it was destiny! The application took some time, I was delighted to obtain a reference and all was well. I have been checking the inbox for a while. Maybe more opportunities will present themselves. Due to the pandemic I am back in touch with the WCPA who provided the rich American pool of poets for this project. So maybe when I am less busy I can organise something myself.
I missed the Cafe Writers Competition Winner Readings with Helen Ivory (Judge), I thought I had booked a ticket, I had registered interest in the event but not got a ticket. I was a actually double booked so would have missed the start of it, but kicked myself for not keeping tabs. This is overwork tiredness. It continued the next day. I had booked for a presentation (one which was recorded) and decided by the time I made it home I was too tired for any screen time. I forgot I have a Tuesday night class at 9PM (in USA) and was asleep before 7:30 pm. This week I have been putting the finishing touches together for Mr. G’s Lockdown birthday and Valentine’s Day as well as working on projects, writing applications and advertising copy.
Midweek I managed to attend Sheffield Libraries workshop, it was a writing week filled with food. Tawnya’s Experimenting with… class on Monday was Food and this Recipes and Memories workshop, facilitated by the wonderful Central Librarian, Claire Walker, links to a project later in the month. I spent a couple of hours in good company recollecting all sorts of stories that were decades thick in dust. It was inspiring and I hope to write up a couple of poems. It was also nice to see some of my 52 Poetry friends at the workshop and everyone shared such inspiring memories that many of us left with pages and pages of notes after the 2 hour workshop finished. At Midnight there was a USA reading, but I was asleep long before then.
On Thursday it was Worcester SpeakEasy, it was a wonderfully tender and entertaining evening, which included an impromptu ‘hat off’, bountiful love, valentine and non-valentine poems and we had a band too! I finished working full time and celebrated with Wolverhampton Literature Festival, Food for Thought poetry cafe, Poet’s Cafe featuring Corrupted Poetry a collective of writers, Nic Stringer, Michelle Penn & Fiona Larkin.
My 2nd proposal written and sent a week ago was acknowledged with an incredibly kind rejection email. They have kept my contact details and had over 3000 applications, they said my detailed pitch was well written, so some upskill desk time & pitching if nothing else. It’s a shame as it sounded like an exciting project to be involved in. Hopefully it has future-paved something!
This weekend was Mr G’s birthday and Valentine’s so I originally avoided booking anything in, until a conversation made me realise that 48 hours with me was not the way he planned to mark the weekend (harsh), so I booked a few bits into the last days of the week. On Saturday I went to Rakaya Fetuga‘s workshop and then the Annual Lucille Clifton Celebration: Today We Are Possible. It was a moving event full of tenderness and power – the best combination, stories and poems and memories of Lucille.
I was glad not to miss Charley Barnes‘ Book Launch for her Poet Laureate Collection, Lore. A collection which feeds more than her obsession with flowers and footnotes. I will be adding a post about this soon.
The Worcestershire LitFest competitions opened and I spent several hours web-building. This week was marked to work on one main project. I managed a few last minute submissions and was looking forward to Cheltenham Poetry Festival who had Kim Addonizio & Christina Thatcher booked. It was an incredible event. Epic in the truest sense of the word. I will be writing February blogposts long into March!
I had a project (which has been postponed) booked in for this week so hadn’t filled the diary. I am spending most of the week working on a manuscript which is due to be submitted. Looming deadlines are always a good reason to set to work. I have been working on this since last year, but decided not to sub it out in the end in the Autumn as I had originally planned. The poems involved have been written since 2019 and I am keeping my fingers crossed. It feels strange as in pre-pandemic times there would have been bountiful events to sell my previous book Patience and I am aware I have stock upstairs, I have sent any interest since March 2020 to the publisher website.
I recently discovered these lunch time readings, PM for UK. A lovely way to finish a day of one workshop, one class and one group.Jennica Harper tender poems touched us all deeply and listening to Frances Boyle force with nature, family, grief was fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to these two Canadian poets. The Q&A was interesting, I love listening to the poet’s process.
Frances Boyle’s first poetry collection, Light-carved Passages was published by Buschek Books in 2014, and her second, This White Nest, by Quattro Books in 2019. She also writes fiction and has published a collection of Short Stories and a Novella.
Jennica Harper is the author of three previous books of poetry: Wood (Anvil Press, 2013), which was shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay prize, What It Feels Like for a Girl (Anvil Press, 2008), and The Octopus and Other Poems (Signature Editions, 2006).
I often miss Cafe Muse nowadays due to work, Canadian events tend to be on in the early hours here in the UK. But I was still awake so I went to listen to the reading series Poets Vs the Pandemic. And I was glad I did, because I got to hear some great poetry from all three poets. Some of the poems were amazing.
Grace Cavalieri is Maryland’s Tenth Poet Laureate. She’s written 22 books and chapbooks of poetry; and 26 produced short-form and full-length plays. Her newest poetry publications are What The Psychic Said (2020;) Showboat,(2019;) and Other Voices, Other Lives (ASP Pub. 2018.) Her latest play was “Quilting The Sun,” Theatre for The New City, NYC, 2019. Grace founded and still produces “The Poet and the Poem” on public radio, celebrating 44 years on-air in 2021. The show’s recorded at the Library of Congress and transmitted via Pacifica Network.
Diane Wilbon Parks founded The Write Blend collective in 2018. She is a visual poet and artist who has published two collections of poetry, and has read widely as a featured poet, radio show guest poet and interviewee on The Poet and the Poem national broadcast from the Library of Congress. Her artwork has been displayed widely. She lives in Prince George’s County, MD.
ROSE SOLARI is the author of three collections of poetry, The Last Girl, Orpheus in the Park, and Difficult Weather, the one-act play, Looking for Guenevere, and the novel, A Secret Woman. She has lectured and taught writing workshops at many institutions, including the University of Maryland, College Park, MD; St. John’s College, Annapolis, MD; and the University of Oxford’s Centre for Creative Writing in Oxford, England. Her awards include the Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize, an EMMA award for excellence in journalism, and multiple grants. In 2010, she co-founded Alan Squire Publishing. Rose Solari lives in Bethesda, MD.
I booked tickets for Rita Dove and Terence Hayes and fell asleep before Jane Hirshfield‘s event Poetry and the Wild with the Natural History Institute. I caught up with a recording of it, another event which deserves an entire blogpost. It’s on the list!
I received some very sad news about our Poets In Motion teacher Celena Diana Bumpus, who passed away along with her mother, Shirley Bumpus. It has been an honour to have known Celena for almost a year, she was a creative person full of light and such a connector in these difficult times. Memorials have been organised. Words are the only fitting way for me to remember her and her generous spirit, spreading love and vision, globally. Her emails bore the signature ‘Be the inspiration the world needs‘. At the end of month I was reunited with classmates via email and we’ve decided to complete the collective unity poem Celena was working with us on.
I recently discovered Live Canon’s Lunchtime Reading Series, I went to the 4th one (I missed the 5th one, which had a great line up as I was at work). I am hoping there may be more in the future. They are just an hour and a perfect poetry lunch. I listened to with Adham Smart, Robin Houghton, Gillie Robic and Laura Theis
Friday night saw the Launch of Kendal Poetry Festival, a fabulous reading from Bernadette Mayer, followed by listening to the winning poems from the Pre-Ralphaelite Society.
The weekend saw the beginning of 9 days of early morning light workshops alternating between Clare Shaw and Kim Moore. These have been wonderful and productive. This weekend saw the first one with Clare followed by a morning with Kim on Sunday. I had a rehearsal for Connect Dudley. I went back to Kendal Poetry Festival for a Workshop and two readings: Hafsah Aneela Bashir, who I discovered last year through the Jerwood Arts events and Jackie Hagan who I have had the pleasure of watching LIVE several times before. Both were incredible events and will appear in my KPF post when I get around to working through the February list!
I finished my Saturday night with Rakaya’s weekly workshop and the Oystercatcher reading, which I was especially pleased to be available to attend as I was missing Vahni Capildeo at KPF. It was a powerful night of work with: Lee Duggan, Zoe Skoulding & Vahni Capildeo.
Sunday saw me back at Kendal Poetry Festival for the early morning writing session with Kim Moore and a reading from These Are the Hands the NHS anthology which came out last year. I will write more on this event. I spent the day building websites, workshops and going to Claire Dyer‘s Book Launch of Yield and trying to squeeze every last drop of freedom from the night. Then that was my week off work, gone.
I was back at work, missed deadlines, completed a week at Kendal Poetry Festival, made a performance/event video (not done one of those for a while), did some classes, had an emotional Worcester 42 in tribute to Kieran Davis, we all shared some of his poems and our memories of him, it was a moving experience. By Wednesday it was all I could do to stay awake after work, I had a fun reading event with Rick Sanders to launch the Connect Dudley Exhibition and had an animation shown in the REELpoetry Festival the same day.
On Thursday I managed to get to a Finding the Words, to hear readings from Gaia Holmes, Natalie Rees and Miles Salter.
It was a great reading and I listened to some inspiring, humour filled and new (to me) poetry which I loved. Kirsten Luckins also had her Book Launch with Guest Readers, it was a real treat to see her in a real book shop!
After work on Friday I managed to get to a panel discussion at Kendal Poetry Festival – Rising to the Challenge: Poetry in the Age of Covid, which was brilliant. I had a workshop and a reading cancelled and was relieved as I needed some time away from the desk. Saturday and I FINALLY made it back to Australia to the Perth Poetry Club – that had been a long time coming too. It will be no surprise that most weekends involve waking up later than 6 AM and so I often miss these by the time I surface after a late Friday night (or even an early one). Still just to wound off the month perfectly, I made it! After a great morning of poetry I joined Kim Moore for her final KPF early morning write. I spent most of the time offline and popped on for RakayaFetuga‘s workshop and to be WOWed by the UoB Slam Team! More to follow.
Sunday marks the last day of Kendal Poetry Festival and I got up to write (for the final festive writing) with Clare Shaw. I have a workshop this evening and plan to spend the rest of the day as Sunday’s should be! Feels like I need a big lie down in March! I am taking a more relaxed approach to filling the diary as it is already full with a desk schedule I need to keep and the last month of contracted work.
October the 1st was NPD (National Poetry Day) and there were many exciting online events to bite into and for once I could use the entire day for poetry, as no work came through in October either! I joined other local poets celebrating poetry and favourite poems on Worcestershire Libraries website for The Hive.
If you use #ShareAPoem you should find lots of videos on You Tube, here’s mine – a poem from Fragile Houses (V. Press, 2016), written during Jo Bell’s amazing 52 Project in 2014/15.
Lots more can be found on the National Poetry Day channel, like this one by Malika Booker.
I enjoyed a creative writing workshop with Sheffield Libraries, sharing our favourite poems on the theme of vision (NPD theme), followed by Heather Wastie‘s Book Launch ‘To the Future, Love Cropredy’ is a collaboration with boat-dwelling visual artist Louise Regan. After I caught the Nine Arches Press and Birmingham Literature Festival event The New Romantics: A Poetry Cabaret With Gregory Leadbetter, Rosie Garland and Maria Taylor, which was superb! Later I went to a Reading at the Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst Arts Night Virtual Reading with Taylor Johnson, Brionne Janae and Rage Hezekiah.
In between I enjoyed NPD unrolling on the main site and even joined in on Instagram. A month of poetry in one day! I managed to watch the other events featured above the next day.
I attended PPP events Yes We Cant, Live from The Butchery Helen Ivory & Martin Figura as well as events at the Walt Whitman Birthplace. I continued with Redwing’s workshops, Poets in Motion and Hybrid Experimental Memoir classes. I managed to get back to Oooh Beehive, Poetry Cafe, Cafe Writers and Worcester 42. I did a workshop with Marcus Jackson, hosted a Mental Health & Wellbeing Event for WLF, went to Goldsmiths Readings, Jerwood Fellowships produced more Poetry Take Overs and I joined some community workshops offered by Ledbury Poetry Festival, facilitated and created by Sara-Jane Arbury. The University of Glasgow offered Creative Conversations and I was able to catch some of them, Sheffield Libraries offered more workshops with Nik Perring and Utopia Theatre offered workshops too.
I joined in the EmeryArts 2020 with an Ekphrastic workshop with Sarah Kobrinsky, which led to a performance this month (more below) and publication. I met a poet working in the 90s who knew poets I am friends with, from way back in my fledging days on the circuit. They appeared in the UK after I left for Kent, so we never met. Missed each other – funny to fill the circles in decades later!
Bountiful month for Festivals including: the Red Line Book Festival, Lyra Festival Bristol, Toronto International Festival of Authors (a fantastic programme), Manchester Literature Festival, The Stay @ Home Fringe Festival had a second run, Birmingham Literature Festival ran from the 1st– 17th October and Cheltenham Poetry Festival continued to run fantastic online events. I saw Sascha Akhtar and Juliette Van Der Molan (the next Virtual Poet in Residence).
I featured at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, a brilliant evening! Then I pretended my lounge was an airport lounge and settled down for an hour on the settee before heading back online in the early hours of the morning to be part of the EmeryArts2020 Reading. You can watch it here https://www.emeryarts.org/poetry.
I was asked to headline Virtual Voices Offa’s Press, this was one of the many real bookings that was lost to 2020. I created an event inspired by the alternative/gothic/sci-fi nights atWorcester 42. The Story Salon is designed to feature short stories which are too long for an open mic. The Halloween edition was called Jack ‘n’ Gory (a take on Jackanory, which was a favourite story time TV show in the 80s). An audience of fearless listeners were treated to a short performance from Suz Winspear. It was great and gave us all an excuse for Fancy Dress.
42 is where I traditionally don my Halloween costume, but the day after was a very special Birthday for a relative this year who I had no wish to shock with left over Halloween make-up, especially as I had not seen her since the start of Lockdown in March.
I also took part in some filming – more on this project soon.
Traditionally I have held INKSPILL in October. The last one was in 2018, it was ready to go before I ended up in hospital – there is a lot of work behind offering a retreat for a weekend and unfortunately I wasn’t strong enough last year and this year there was so much offered online it didn’t seem possible. I am hoping next Autumn we may have another one.
August was still patchy with sun and I was able to enjoy the garden. I was beginning to feel the edge of cabin fever. I slowed down online with extra events and focused on writing and reading. It was as strange as all the other months this year. I had hoped my birthday wouldn’t be in Lockdown – I’d seen and attended some awesome, creative celebrations online – I just couldn’t face the extra screen time. Mr G. and I planned to use one of the socially distanced restaurants and go out for the first time since March, but I got too scared.
I finally made some submissions. I spent hours writing applications, which were unsuccessful in results but updated all my paperwork ready for when the right one does come along!
We had a wonderful International Reading again for Cath Drake‘s Writing course Reinvent the Future – this time with Malika Booker as Guest Poet. It was another wonderful event.
Melbourne Spoken Word Festival continued, Army@Fringe hosted a Virtual Festival with lots of programmes about theatre writing, Jinny Fisher hosted another Poetry Pram event, Wendy Pratt hosted one day retreats, and PPP continued with many events and classes. I finally got to some events in New Zealand and made it back to Fire & Dust (Coventry) to see Genevieve Carver, I saw Joelle Taylor and Laura Scott at Cafe Writers. I managed to Zoom to StaffordWORDS Myths & Legends. I started attending some of the creative writing workshops held at Sheffield Libraries, they have raised a whole community online. Wonderful work. I started workshops with Nik Perring , Reader in Residence at Sheffield Libraries, who have all been great and productive. I attended a few seminars and talks.
I joined Celena Diane‘s Poets in Motion and had a great time at the Wirral Poetry Festival with Brian Wake, writing from ‘At the Circus’ prompts and artwork. Love an ekphrastic poem & poet/artists projects. I get involved with them as often as I can. I was asked to be Poet in Residence (virtually) for Cheltenham Poetry Festival.
I finished my Connect Dudley commission and Worcestershire LitFest went online. We held the delayed interviews for the next Worcestershire Poet Laureate.
So, my birthday was quiet – but we are still safe.
Five months into the pandemic and most of us know someone who has suffered. My heart goes out to all the families who’ve lost more than birthdays this year. The Lockdown is difficult to cope with – but suffering from Covid – there are no words, just huge thanks to those tasked with trying to help us.
For some reason I attempted Yoga again this month, Lockdown has made us all a little crazy, I think I did a fusion of Yoga and Pilates, basically the warm up and then filled in most of the class with exercise my back could manage.
I saw my first human being other than my mum and Mr G. since the beginning of Lockdown. It was my eldest nephew’s birthday. I stood in the garden, he stayed inside. It was the hardest not-hug to give/not give. Delighted I saw him. He couldn’t believe he was only the 3rd person I had seen since the end of March! By the end of the month I shared garden coffee with a few friends.
My actual travel/ life may have diminished to something which resembled 2019 (without the pain) but my screen life was exploding. I stretched my Zoom poetry wings further into Australia, out to New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, America and Coventry – if you have ever driven the route from here you will understand why I include that UK destination in amongst my international travel. Other local events found the wonders of Zoom and FB and moved events online. Library services also extended online content.
Poetry and writing has gone Global this year, writing is also (like baking, making sourdough, planting, painting and photography) one of the hobbies/ escapes people turned to. Even people who never appeared online have probably scribbled journals or feelings down at some points in this Lockdown. There have been wonderful local/ national/ international community projects popping up all over the place. Letter writing has become fashionable again, or at least it did before people realised the dangers of post. The world has creatively adapted. We have held each other (metaphorically) up in a year that made us all feel like we no longer had bones!
The other thing which began to take seed was the funding artists had applied for through the Arts Council. With this emergency funding came a flurry of projects and workshops. Funding was also received from other revenue sources.
PPP – (Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists) celebrated the Black Country/ Lockdown and isolation with Stay Up Your Own End– which offered people both a microscopic and magnified view of their locales as seen through the eyes of people with pens. It encouraged people who had never written before or never openly written before to pick up a pen and write. It was set up as a round of competitions, prizes included a video film produced & £25.
The judges/prompt writers for each round were local favourites of the Black Country poetry scene Richard Archer, Rick Sanders, Roy McFarlane, Kuli Kohli, and Heather Wastie.
PPP were commissioned by Creative Black Country to run a series of online poetry activities across the region.
I did workshops with Anna Saunders, Adam Horovitz, Liam Brown, Zena Edwards and joined Malika Speaks and Poets In Motion. I went to Book launches including The Estate Agent’s Daughter – Rhian Edwards (Seren), Wild Persistence – Katrina Naomi (Seren), Pack of Lies – Roz Levens (Black Pear Press)
More Festivals and Events: ART IS… Festival, Trim (Ireland), Own It! Online Festival, Wirral Poetry Festival, Cheltenham Poetry Festival, Kit De Waal Creative Writing Wonder Women, Ledbury Poetry Salon with Philip Gross & Lesley Saunders. Sarah L. Dixon moved The Quiet Compere online and created a series of reunion shows. I made video poems for Wordcraft, PASTA, performed at Fire & Dust, 42, That Poetry Zoom, Perth Poetry Club, Poets’ Cafe and watched Dear Listener. Oooh Beehive, Run Your Tongue, Yes We Cant and others. Room 204 continued to support us with opportunities.
Personal highlights for the month (other than braving the company of friends) were:
A reading for the end of Writing to Buoy Us – Reading to Buoy Us with Cath Drake. The courses drew both established and new poets in from across the world.
It was an uplifting event which featured both class groups and Australian poet Mark Tredinnick as the Guest Reader.
Writing and creativity are how most of us are continuing to process this pandemic 6 months later, the connectivity shared at this time was invaluable. It was special.
Poetry Film Live Relaunched their website and featured one of my animated Poetry Renewed Films ‘Tailspin’ to Launch it. Like every business Elephant’s Footprint have adapted during this pandemic and shifted their courses online.
Exciting talks started with the committee about moving WLF online, we were holding off in the hope the postponed annual festival (mid-June) could be pushed back to early Autumn, by this time it became apparent that Covid was going to be with us for some time.
I took part in my first online SLAM (I don’t really do the SLAM poet thing but this was in Australia and I couldn’t resist). My poems appeared in the keepsake gift book the Art Is Festival released.
I wrote down submission opportunities and promptly missed the deadlines. Seems like I have the horse ready but a little unsure of getting back on!
If I thought April had been a whirlwind, I wasn’t quite buckled in for May!
I was enjoying off screen time in the garden, had already taken photos of the blossom and enjoyed the early Spring flowers.
You know it is easy to misremember how it was? I closed the last flashback with the realisation I had not travelled more than 1.5 miles from my home – actually my perimeter was a lot smaller in April. I hadn’t started walking outside of my home and the supermarket is not that far away so thinking back, the frame of my life was caught in a circle of 3 roads, just one small block of life!
This was the month it expanded to 1.5 miles.
I do remember I stayed in, if I wasn’t in the garden I was in the house. Most of the street were out in the back gardens, enjoying the sun, building new sheds, cabins, garden furniture, slides and swings whilst I was indoors fighting the good fight for Furlough or burying my head in the sand of a writing world that became my Narnia.
May started with more festivals: Avon Book Festival, Stay at Home Fringe Festival (organised by the Students/graduates of Glasgow Uni), The Urban Tree Festival and of course HAY (which I managed to blog in a timely fashion). Huge gratitude to everyone who has worked so hard to give creatives access to platforms and festivals at this time.
Big gratitude to Julia Webb for the prompt/course she ran this month. To Kim Moore for braving the online world of workshops and furthering my year of learning. To Carys Hannah who started a Golden Girls Watch Party, which reminded us what laughter is and made us all hope we get to grow old.
To Anna Saunders and the team at Cheltenham Poetry Festival for delivering a feast of poetic pleasure with numerous events and a great line up of poets. To Seren for creating a series of reading events, AWP for giving us a night with Joy Harjo (Poet Laureate of USA). For the universe for keeping my neighbour safe the morning she climbed up on our conservatory roof to clean and I couldn’t stop her!
Thanks to Helen Ivory & Martin Figura for events at the Butchery and to Jinny Fisher for her Poetry Pram Party. Thanks to Jane Commane at Nine Arches Press for videos, live readings and Book Launches, to Emma Wright at the Emma Press for Book Launches and webinar readings/Q&A. To Phillipa Slinger and Chloe Garner who moved Ledbury Poetry Festival and the Salons online.
This month I also enjoyed the Saboteur Awards and Book Launches for The Unmapped Woman by Abegail Morley (Nine Arches Press), Dorothy by Briony Hughes (Broken Sleep Books), Apple Fallen by Olga Dermott-Bond (Against the Grain).
And I finally realised online events meant we could travel after all… and travel I did, first stop back to Australia. I headed back to Perth and Freo. Thanks to all at VoiceBox. I reunited with some of the Perth crew at Zoomouth, which was brilliant!
I finished the 6 weeks Writing to Buoy Us course with Cath Drake and writers from Europe and Australia. I started a Hybrid Experimental course with Tawnya Renellehttps://tawnyaselenerenelle.com/ , who I also met through the Stay at Home Fringe Festival. And who also needs a huge shout out of gratitude. I was glad to help where I could at the beginning and have loved watching the take-off!
I completed work on the animations for Poetry Renewed with Elephant’s Footprint and wrote lots in journal form and a few poems. Covid had crept into the writing and I was attempting to not write about it in the beginning. And the BIG conservation started about the artists place in all this, whether it is our job or not to almanac the times (which is what a lot of writers/artists do). I believe most of us do, but also agreed that writing books about it probably wouldn’t even make it to the slush pile, of course I am sure there will be some, there already are. But I’m still processing last year and things which happened at the beginning of this one (pre-Covid).
May was the month: I realised my back can’t manage Yoga and gracefully I saluted the sun for one last time, started to walk in nature, used my walking stick for the last time (hadn’t needed it for 3 months), I blamed the yoga but looking at this it was more likely all that sitting at the desk! It marked the milestone of my first submission in 5 months! I have been very slow to get back on that horse!
March Lockdown was only a week – but those 7 days felt like a lifetime!
I was one of the many people who actually found life online a blessing, it was a way of staying connected during Lockdown and after a week I realised the Writing Community had gone full throttle into Teams, Crowdcast, Webinar platforms, Zoom (of course) and suddenly INSTA and FB were brimming with events, workshops, performances and festivals. I was a little slower to fill my diary as I was adjusting and juggling concerns for family, finances, future etc. (as we all were).
I realised having suffered depression and my year of incapacity last year (where I couldn’t be online for 6 months due to not being able to concentrate/focus/work/ use a desk/chair and was off social media for a while longer as by the time I finally reached the desk the manuscript was 5 months overdue an edit)! That this online connection is essential for some of us.
It was also a blessing as my body had time to heal, I wasn’t running ragged or trying to push driving distances. I also hadn’t found a solid way back into the poetry community after a year away. This exodus online, bridged that gap and gave me the ability to travel again – although it was a while (months) before I realised international waters were open!
I didn’t leave my home territory for the first month of lockdown and after that was only brave enough for one nature walk a week (it was still restricted back then that you can’t drive to walk and we live in an urban area), there are trees lining the dual carriageway, but we have a garden so I sat with nature rather than walking.
Looking back, I knew even then it was a gift that we had Lockdown in the Spring, for much of the world it wasn’t as warm or abundant with nature. A few months into lockdown I was one of two people wearing a mask to supermarket shop and only once or twice a month. Mr G. had to work throughout lockdown so there was always a possibility even when I was keeping myself from the world. So thank goodness for life online.
Of course there were strains and worries, fears and concerns, waking every day for months… well we all lived it right, it has been tough financially and I know people who were very ill with Coronavirus. I am choosing not to address it in these posts (other than excusing myself for not mentioning it in this first one).
At first my online meets were just for virtual coffees and a few regular events I attend which had moved online. I want to give a big shout out to Poets, Prattlers and Pandemonialists https://www.pandemonialists.co.uk a.k.a. Emma Purshouse, Steve Pottinger and Dave Pitt who have grown to adapt to many platforms this year but immediately moved events online and were making them fully accessible no matter what your situation, lots of hard work.
I am delighted that after putting the hours in and giving so generously they have maintained working status with lots of projects online. They always are busy people and it doesn’t look like they are about to let a pandemic stop that ethic!
Polly Stretton immediately moved 42 online, a regular event in Worcester that we have been enjoying on Zoom since March.
I was writing for a Worcester Cathedral Poetry Project, organised by their poet in residence, Amanda Bonnick.
And then Carolyn Jess-Cooke gave us the STAY AT HOME FESTIVAL – https://stayathomelitfest.co.uk/about/ the first in a long line of festivals online – it was brilliant and on a massive scale and conceived (as many things are) on Twitter.
I unfortunately missed the call (as I was working F/T until lockdown) but I attended most of the festival weekend and was lucky enough to be one of the showcase poets.
I will write an entire post about the festival, I was hugely grateful and it was also the beginning of filling my notebooks – (2 over this weekend), avoiding household chores and unpacking boxes!