Category Archives: Poem

Inua Ellams 2020 Vision: A Reflection on the Year

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2020 Vision: A Reflection on the Year

© Henry Nicholls

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

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

Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

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

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

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

Flashback Spring (May)

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Photo by Boris Pavlikovsky on Pexels.com

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.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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).

Photo by Jason Toevs on Pexels.com

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 Renelle https://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!

National Poetry Day 2020

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Happy National Poetry Day! I hope you find some good words to dive into today.

Here’s a small guide to places you can spend some time in. Enjoy!

The main website for National Poetry Day is worth a good look around, but in case you are snatching a poem on your lunch break or pressed for time, I have selected some options.

36 Poems to read

Articles National Poetry Day

Poetry Recommendations

Poetry Archive

7 poems to listen to.

There are plenty of events happening online, nearly all are ticketed, some are free and there are lots of poetry take overs across social media platforms.

An exciting aspect of this year’s NPD is we are no longer bound by Geography – look beyond your region, spread the poetry love!

© Hay Festival 2020

You could treat yourself and listen to Poet Laureate Simon Armitage reading in Dove Cottage (Wordsworth). This is a ticketed event.

https://wordsworth.org.uk/blog/events/simon-armitage-in-dove-cottage/

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm BST

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.

Simon Armitage Trailer

Or you could just find a quiet spot, take a book off the shelf and indulge in a read, or grab a notebook and pen and have a write.

Between 2013-2018 I offered an annual writing retreat here on AWF. Over the 6 years of INKSPILL we had various guest poets gift us writing prompts, I have included a couple in this selection.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/10/28/inkspill-2018-picture-prompts/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/10/27/inkspill-2018-writing-activity/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/10/29/inkspill-guest-poet-stephen-daniels-workshop-exercise/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2016/10/22/inkspill-workshop-with-roy-mcfarlane-objects-to-hang-our-words-

on/https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2015/10/25/inkspill-beautiful-ugly-part-1/

Listening for Pleasure

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This is on in less than 30 mins on Radio 4.

The New Lyrical Ballads

Lyrical Ballads, a collection of poems by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge first published in 1798, changed the course of British poetry. Growing up in the Lake District, Wordsworth set out to use the everyday language he heard around him in his poems in order to make them accessible to a wider audience. Both poets drew inspiration from seeing a return to the original state of nature, in which people led a purer and more innocent existence The word Lyrical linked their poems to ancient rustic bards, while Ballad refers to an oral storytelling tradition. Both poets used rural life and country people as the subject of their poetry which was a marked shift from what had come before.

To mark the 250 anniversary of Wordsworth’s birth, four leading poets Zaffar Kunial, Kim Moore, Helen Mort and Jacob Polley read new lyrical ballads inspired by the ideas in the original collection. Each of the contemporary poets have strong links to Cumbria and the Lake District and their poems give us a glimpse into life in the county now.

Produced by Lorna Newman and Susan Roberts
A BBC North production.

Copyright © 2020 BBC

 

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Go on! Give your ears some food!

NaPoWriMo 2020 It’s Coming!

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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 Go post 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.

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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!


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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.

In the meantime, happy writing!


I started to listen to the Slowdown Podcast and appreciated the slowness of it juxtaposing the violent onslaught of next door’s far-too-loud-radio, I know of Tracy K. Smith, I discovered her before she was a US Laureate and I know some of her work, I know she plays with pace and rhythm and sometimes line breaks used to enable this breath. Looking at the Poetry Foundation page I decided to treat myself to some of her work too and revisited Declaration from Wade in the Water.  Copyright © 2018

poetry foundation

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.

 

Mark Jarman – “Interesting Times” from Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2011

I then settled down to read the poetry snippets https://poets.org/text/thirteen-ways-looking-poems-about-birds before considering my own writing for today.

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.

Enjoy!

 

INKSPILL 2018 CONTOUR Poetry Magazine Issue 4 COMING SOON

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We hope you have enjoyed the INKSPILL weekend.

During my time as worcestershire Poet Laureate I created Contour – A Poetry Magazine. The launch of this issue was hoped to be our final post for INKSPILL 2018*.  Here I was to invite you to curl up with a warm drink and experience the world of poetry and all things poetical in the latest issue of CONTOUR.

contour 4 celebration - Made with PosterMyWall

*However, the issue is not ready to go live (in case you missed the post I have had an operation) and this has set me back/time online not possible etc. This issue will go live very soon and I will post on the blog to promote it when it does.

Until then I can share some news and the previous issues of Contour for you to enjoy.

Inkspill news

My Laureateship ended in June 2018 but I have decided to continue with Contour.

It will now be an annual publication released as the final event of INKSPILL weekend. Submissions will open in July 2019, keep your eye on A Writers Fountain for more details.

LINKS:

SPECIAL EDITION ISSUE 3 A TALE OF TWO CITIES

Transatlantic Poetry Project as featured in Poetry Society Poetry News.

 

ISSUE 2 CONTOUR LOVE

 

ISSUE 1 CONTOUR PLACE

 

INKSPILL 2018 A Poem From Simon Armitage

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This Poem of the Week from The Guardian was published in May 2018. Click the read to read ‘The Straight and Narrow’ by Simon Armitage, the Poem of the Week includes an analysis.

The Straight and Narrow

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The article includes links to the following interviews/ webpages. “Swimming through Bricks”: A Conversation with Simon Armitage by Rob Roensch and Quinn Carpenter Weedon and Magic Realism in Fiction.

 

World Childless Week 10th-16th

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

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

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

world childless week

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

https://worldchildlessweek.net/ © 2018

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

childless letters

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

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

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

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

The Royal Wedding

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The Royal Wedding

The Royal Wedding – The Tone is Set, a new poem as Worcestershire Poet Laureate.

Poet Laureate

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It is not every Laureate who gets a Royal Wedding during their tenure. As this website has a huge International reach and this is a momentous occasion, I decided it was only fitting to gift a poem. 

The Tone is Set

In one smile
she shows the world
her dreams have come true.

Gentle songs meander
towards strong speeches –
Fire and Love.

The Prince and nearly Princess
absorb their connection,
fingers entwined.

A mother sits alone,
closes her eyes in prayer
as the choir trills the space.

Bishop Michael invites
the congregation to think
of the shape of love.

‘Think about the time
you first fell in love
in any form.’

The smile widens
as tears are wiped from cheeks,
hats bowed in thought.

‘We were made
by the power of love.’

A moment of almost silent
sign language is shared,
as lovers do. Before ‘I do.’

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Shakespeare Birthplace Trust – School Poetry Project

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Back in early Spring I attended a workshop where we were offered the opportunity to get involved with a project between Young Writers in Local Schools & the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

I registered my interest in March with Elizabeth Dollimore the Informal Learning and Programmes Manager and by April had received my two letters from local school children, in which they set a poetry challenge. My real challenge was the fast turn around with just 6 days to write two poems and get them posted back to the team at the Birthplace. As you know, April was busy – the week I was writing for this I was also organising the Poetry Exhibition at the Jinney Ring, facilitating 1 workshop for The Basement Project, attending another one (ironically in Stratford – but my poems were not ready to drop in) and had tickets to Idle Women.

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I knew I had to get the writing done before the weekend and here I faced a new set of challenges. Mainly everything had to be handwritten – nowadays I type almost everything. Still I thought it would be good for the children to see how great their handwriting was in comparison!

The poems were about peace, one pupil asked for humour and the other asked for nature to be included. The resulting poem ‘A Need for Peace’ was written using a rhyming scheme (rare in my work) and took a few drafts before it scanned properly, I think it was funny – hopefully my pupil did too. The second poem ‘Ground Control’ was brimming with nature and used terms to describe aspects of nature like ‘Komorebi’. They were both fun to write.

Along with the poems sent back we had to give the pupil a new poetry challenge which they then used in a workshop.

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This month I received an email from Julie Harris-Grant to say;

The local primary school has been in touch to say that the children were absolutely thrilled with their replies!  Your letters have really inspired them to engage with and enjoy a variety of poetry.

A second workshop was held at MENCAP and this has produced yet more exciting work for us to share.

 

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I enjoy any poetry projects which focus on Peace & Reconciliation, I love to collaborate and try something new.

It has been a pleasure to help connect young people to poetry and I am looking forward to the final event on the 23rd June as part of the

Poetry Festival 2018

Inspired by a theme of Peace and Reconciliation

where we get to meet the school teams and hear some of the work they have produced.

Black Box Poetry
Saturday 23 June, 2.00 -3.00 pm

Local school children, community groups and poetry enthusiasts have all been working with In-Public to create poetry about peace. Join us to hear the poems they created and be inspired by the talent and creativity on show.

This will take place at The Shakespeare Centre, Henley Street, Stratford Upon Avon, CV37 6QW