Poetry and Artwork on Worcestershire wanted for Contour – The Poet Laureate E-Zine.
Full submission guidelines in link.
Poetry and Artwork on Worcestershire wanted for Contour – The Poet Laureate E-Zine.
Full submission guidelines in link.
The beginning of this month has been scheduled to full capacity. Starting with a meeting at the Medical Museum, Charley Barnes asked me to write and perform (along with Mike Alma & Polly Stretton) at ‘Buildings Talk – Hospital Histories’ on the 13th July.
The George Marshall Medical Museum is a hidden gem, an archive of 250 years of healthcare and hospital history and it will be open on the evening of the event and I am incredibly excited to get inside and have a look at all the history. We are currently working with photographs that Louise Price (Curator) has provided, we all selected the images that talked to us and have been busily writing poetry.
I am looking forward to this performance, having seen the space and the projection area. I am currently editing my writing for this Thursday. https://medicalmuseum.org.uk/
I missed Stanza as my body hit sleep mode!
It was also the beginning of Ledbury Poetry Festival – I have been drooling over the programme for months but can only manage tomorrow (the final day). I am looking forward to that! http://www.poetry-festival.co.uk/
On Saturday (the real beginning of July), I went to the Custard Factory – Writing West Midlands for a Room 204 project. Adam Speaks has been set up by Rachel Sharpe and Kiki Claxton for the National Trust, following Plumlines last year. We are one of 4 groups creating the outcome along with Chris Alton the Lead Artist on the project. Participating groups are: Kimichi School, The Birmingham Institute of Theatre Arts, Writing West Midlands and St Barnabas First and Middle School.
© Peter Young 2017
They had a huge number of applicants for this position, including international applications. 13 were shortlisted and in April, Chris was chosen from this group.
Chris Alton, from Croydon, is a multidisciplinary artist, whose practice brings together distant, yet connected cultural phenomena. Whether deploying disco music against fascism or playing table tennis in competition with aggressive architecture, he utilises seemingly incongruous juxtapositions to address the multi-layered nature of prevailing social and political conditions. © National Trust Croome Court Adam Speaks
The workshop was an intensive thought process in a relaxed atmosphere. Lasting for 6 hours, Chris went away with a massive amount of writing by the end. I look forward to being a part of Adam Speaks. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/croome/projects/adam-speaks
© Peter Young 2017
Sunday saw Evesham Festival of Words and my third official appearance as Worcestershire Poet Laureate, as we took to the green of the town on the Poetry Walk. The programme for this festival was strong and again, there was much I wanted to go and see, but with work and bookings and the In tray of writing tasks currently being shuffled (I mean written), I had no spare time.
I was looking forward to this as previous years have been really successful. This year it was all centred in the park around the Bell Tower and I performed under the Cloisters, some poems I wrote especially for the event which were Evesham based. It was a good turn out and I took lots of pictures, which I still need to upload!
Monday I had my first official slot as WPL on BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester with Tammy Gooding. The interview itself was incredibly short, but it will be a regular monthly slot that I am stepping into. Previous Laureates have done this for years, it is good to keep up the media side. Suz Winspear (WPL 2016-17) continues to write her column for SLAP (Supporting Local Arts & Performers) Magazine. I saw we had a mention in there too – another photo to upload.
It was lovely meeting Tammy and see her passion for poetry. She made me feel at ease and the interview (pre-recorded) needed no editing. Impressive for my first time.
You can listen in http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p055z30x
In the evening I had a Guest Spot at Licensed to Rhyme, hosted by Maggie Doyle & Spoz. Suz Winspear was headlining. It was good to see some new faces and it was a wonderful night of poetry. Claire Walker took the other Guest Spot and I also got to re-meet my High School English Teacher who has started volunteering at the Arts Centre, she retires this year – I have to say, I recognised her straight away but was convinced it couldn’t be her as she looked NO DIFFERENT! I bet she was a little proud to watch a former pupil do something with her subject.
There were many events Tuesday and Wednesday, but I was working and felt the need to rest and see Mr. G. before headlining Thursday.
Thursday night saw me Headline at Uncorked along with Clive Oseman, Jake Scott and Sean Colletti. This wonderful (new) night hosted by Holly Daffurn is always a pleasure to experience, the venue Bottles Wine Bar is brilliant and they love these events as much as we do.
Everyone produced incredible sets and Sean had spent some time (few weeks) organising us through messenger. Holly allows the headline acts to provide a taster of 5 minutes at the beginning of the evening.
Sean devised a theatrical element – a Dr./patient interview, with light and shade in the script, my favourite line was Jake’s ~ referring to Sean qualifying as a Doctor (in Creative Writing) “What are you going to do? Prescribe Poetry?” We all performed a poem and one of mine ‘Humans’ was divided up so all 4 of us took part.
It was a first for Uncorked and it worked effectively. Great impact for a taster. It was an enjoyable evening, big thanks to Kieran Davis for coming and being my support.
On Friday I had to get up early and head to Shrewsbury for a totally wonderful workshop with Helen Ivory and Martin Figura – who I almost had the chance to meet in 2015, possibly perform on the same night but failed to meet the deadline. It was great to finally meet them both and I thoroughly enjoyed the 2 hour workshop at the Theatre Severn.
It was worth every minute of journey (my SATNAV took me via Bridgnorth and up some incredibly steep hills)!
I came home laden with books and ideas. Unfortunately I was too tired to do anything other than add the books to the poetry shelf/bookcase and curl up in a ball and sleep.
Today I was planning on another writing group/workshop but with a full day in Ledbury and a still rather full (possibly over-flowing) In Tray – I have given it a miss.
The thing I am missing at the moment is writing time, other than the commissions. I have read articles where poets say they struggle to write anything other than commission… I really hope that doesn’t happen to me. I will give myself some space soon and see if I get my voice back.
Back in 2015 I dreamed of my pamphlet being published at the same time as Claire Walker’s, we have talked of many collaborative readings and ideas. By the time 2016 rolled around, my head was filled with firm ideas of collaborating, by 2017 there was somewhat of a larger idea forming.
I had a concrete plan and all I needed was acceptance. I approached Kathy Gee and Claire Walker, two poets who are also published by V. Press. I was delighted when they both agreed to my idea and I swiftly put in an application for Worcester LitFest (WLF).
We waited until our place in the programme was confirmed before we set to work on this project. I am from a performance background and know only too well the unseen hours of work and rehearsal. What I loved about our meetings was the fluidity in which we found ourselves working. There is nothing better than a positive environment with like-minded people to stoke the fires and like an Olympic torch ours kept burning!
We all know each other’s poetry and have each other’s books on our shelves, so placing our work together was not too difficult, cutting it down to a running order size was a fair challenge – thank goodness we all know how to kill our darlings.
Once we had organised the poetry we then played (and I mean that verb) with the sequence until we were all satisfied with the show. Then the real fun began with read through, deciding where the combined voices worked best.
I had started work on the multimedia element before we were accepted for WLF as I was convinced this performance would happen at some point, somewhere. I know from making poetry films last year (Fragile Houses) that media and editing is painstakingly time consuming. I also know that when you LOVE what you do, work never feels like work.
Eventually we brought voice and film together and rehearsed and altered the show.
And what a show it was.
A M A Z I N G!
We are very proud our show was one of the best-selling festival events, we did some point specific marketing and believe that the tireless work of the WLF team and The Hive (Worcester Library/Venue) advertising in the What’s On at The Hive programme helped in this success!
There were plenty of people we did not know as well as good friends and supporters. It was a fabulous night! We hope to tour it next year. Catch us if you can.
Photography Elaine Christie© 2017
Nina Lewis – Introducing the Poets:
Rangzeb © 2015
Followed by our 40 minute show exploring the various stages of life through womanhood.
Huge thanks to Kathy Gee for providing some of the media clips, projectors, scripts, folders and the programmes! For Claire Walker who had the wonderful idea of incorporating the open mic element. To the audience for having faith and to our open mic performers for beginning such a cracking night!
Really enjoyable evening, the interweaving of voices – both actual and literary – worked extremely well. Video backdrop a unifying element. -Nigel
Fantastic evening, the show should go on the road, really enjoyable, and the three poets really worked as a performance. -Neil
A gorgeous night tonight! Brilliant poetry presented in a way I’ve never seen before! -Suz
Such a pleasure. Spellbinding poetry and a beautiful backdrop of images. Thanks for lovely evening. -Kathy A
30-40-60 is a triumph. A splendid performance from spectacular poets. Kathy Gee, Claire Walker and Nina Lewis were exquisite. Wonderful! –Kieran
A lovely evening at the Hive with Worcester LitFest and the wonder 30-40-60. When it comes back it’s a Do Not Miss. -Anne
Poetry perfection, wonderful. – Maggie
The poetry found so many points of connection. Beautiful. -Belinda
Rick Sanders reviewed the show (Related Links) – here are some soundbites. Thanks to Rick for the review and feedback.
Last night I had the pleasure of seeing 30 – 40 – 60 at the Hive in Worcester, one of a myriad of events taking place as part of the Worcestershire Litfest. The show is the brainchild of poets Claire Walker, Nina Lewis and Kathy Gee and it explores the works of all three poets through a connected narrative and visual accompaniment.
Some pieces are solo readings, while others combine the voices of all three poets in acoustic harmony, which is different and rarely seen in poetry performance.
an engaging and highly entertaining piece of performance art.
A must see if 30 – 40 – 60 pops up again in a town near you…
… distinctive voicing to a beautiful narrative, which is complimented in turn by the visuals being displayed behind the readers. As an audience you get to see and hear two things at once, adding to the imagery of the spoken word and layering another context to the poems. It’s a clever use of multimedia and works well in the overall effect. -Rick
Look at this miracle, Day 26 ON Day 26 – cue flying pig!
Today’s featured participant is fresh poetry, where the “poetics of space” prompt for Day 25 takes back in time to a very particular classroom, while also launching us out onto the sea.
Our interview for the day is another two-fer – the poet Melissa Range interviewed by the poet Stephen Burt about her book, Scriptorium, sonnets, and incorporating colloquialisms and slang into poetry. You can learn more about interview-er and interview-ee here and here. And you can read three of Range’s poems here, and at this link, you’ll find a lyrical essay by Burt.
And now for our (optional) prompt! Have you ever heard someone wonder what future archaeologists, whether human or from alien civilization, will make of us? Today, I’d like to challenge you to answer that question in poetic form, exploring a particular object or place from the point of view of some far-off, future scientist? The object or site of study could be anything from a “World’s Best Grandpa” coffee mug to a Pizza Hut, from a Pokemon poster to a cellphone.
I had great fun with this prompt and went with my initial object that was on my desk as I read the prompt. It got a bit sticky when thinking about futurisms and how much of our language would have been used and when I have more time I would like to invent a half language and translate.
Writing this poem sparked a few new ideas and I have made some science based notes on the sun and the moon too. More to play with later… looks like I may need to take next year off.
The Sea of Showers looks brown,
this leads some of the Scientists to predict
our archaeological response wrong.
Carrie Etter offers – in a place where you have lived before (or where you live now), list some specific names of the flora and fauna of that environment:
the names of one or two birds;
one or two kinds of trees, plants and wildflowers.
Next she asked us to imagine ourselves as a character in this environment, one with a specific worry. Give a strong impression of place through intermingling the concerns with details of the environment.
Poetry that uses senses and a sense of place.
I have lived in so many places, but for the ease/speed of writing several poems in a day, I chose my current abode. My Great Aunty has always wowed me with her ability to name every tree, plant and bird, this gift/talent/knowledge is not something I possess, so I knew there would be some research before I could launch into poetry.
The list was fairly easy to compile – but at the start of the poem, I very much felt it like a writing exercise, a slightly forced one at that. I relaxed into it and halfway through the tone became more natural and the words started to flow. I have a poem I can work with now and a future idea for more.
you can never be sure when rain will come.
Jo Bell offered tonight by Charles Bukowski
A great discussion on Bukowski, King, expressing the truth and down to earth wit.
The Poetry School
Day 26: Acrostics
We’d like to see your acrostic poems, ones where the first (or last – or first and last) letters of each line spell out a word.
A lot of people think acrostics are childish, but they needn’t be. Kathleen Ossip’s sequence of acrostic elegies elevates the form to art.
Wow! It’s hard to believe we’ve been at this for 23 whole days already. I hope you each have nearly 2 dozen poems under your belt. And if not, that’s okay too! Whether you try to catch up, or just jump back into writing now, either way works for us!
Today’s featured participant is Marilyn Rauch Cavicchia, whose georgic poem for Day 22 explains to us how (not) to grow a cabbage!
For our interview today, we’re “kicking it old school,” with T.S. Eliot being interviewed by Donald Hall. Not entirely sure who these two are? (Maybe you went into a defensive faint when asked to read “The Waste Land” in high school?) Well, here’s a little information on Eliot and Hall. You can also check out a number of Eliot’s poems (including some blessedly short ones) here, and some of Hall’s poems here.
And now for our daily prompt (optional, as always). Our prompt for Day Twenty-Three comes to us from Gloria Gonsalves, who challenges us to write a double elevenie. What’s that? Well, an elevenie is an eleven-word poem of five lines, with each line performing a specific task in the poem. The first line is one word, a noun. The second line is two words that explain what the noun in the first line does, the third line explains where the noun is in three words, the fourth line provides further explanation in four words, and the fifth line concludes with one word that sums up the feeling or result of the first line’s noun being what it is and where it is. There are some good examples in the link above.
A double elevenie would have two stanzas of five lines each, and twenty-two words in all. It might be fun to try to write your double elevenie based on two nouns that are opposites, like sun and moon, or mountain and sea.
I had to study The Waste Land at A-level and remember enjoying it immensely. Just as I enjoyed discovering how to write an elevenie and writing several. I wrote three and this is a form I will return to.
They are so short and each line needs the preceding one, so I do not feel I can share any of the lines without the rest of the poem. I wrote one on sky and then followed the Double Elevenie idea of combining Mountain/Sea as opposites.
Carrie Etter’s prompt was to write something unpleasant that happened to you as a child in third person, showing how the child feels. I, like many others wrote about a wasp sting.
She learnt hard lessons that summer:
not to leave sticky lollies to heat,
the sugary fascination of striped creatures
and how best to avoid airborne predators.
Jo Bell http://www.jobell.org.uk/ posted Rhetorical Questions by Hugo Williams.
The Poetry School set an incredibly challenging task. I believe it is the act of writing that helps create my writing. I do know a few incredibly talented/renowned poets who work in this head first way.
Day 23 It’s All In Your Head
Poetry is supposed to be i) read aloud and ii) memorable. Bearing that in mind, I’d like you to explore a compositional process that forces you to actually speak the words you’re crafting and make sure they stick in your head.
So, for today’s task, I’d like you to not put pen to paper. Compose in your head, or aloud – nowhere near a pen, pencil or computer. Smart phones are particularly toxic for this exercise – if you can go out without yours, do so. I suggest you go for a walk, take a long bath, sit in the library, garden or park – or just let your mind wander over the hoovering.
Don’t set pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, until the poem is perfect and whole in your head. It’ll be indescribably tempting to rush to a notepad as soon as you get a good line in your head – resist this urge!
Day 11 – I was super busy and had time to look at the prompts and not write any poetry. So this is the first day of NaPo that I failed to write my poem a day – this happens. It happens to most people embracing the challenge, maybe the poetry that comes today will be stronger having lingered in my head for 24 hours.
Yesterday I spent the morning making an Easter Promotion video for Fragile Houses (better than an egg), reading proof copy, organising festival events and writing blurb for programmes. In the afternoon I went to Swindon with Rick Saunders (Willis the Poet) to watch him Headline at Oooh Beehive, Clive Oseman & Nick Lovell’s Spoken Word Night. Other Headliners were Aaron Samuel (who has been in the game for just 4 short months and is AMAZING) and Bryony Vine – both of whom were spotted by Clive and Nick at Milk Poets. It was a great night!
Totally forgiving myself for not writing poetry.
Let’s step back in time…
Our featured participant for the day is Unassorted stories, where the poem for Day 9 is a portrait of a mental makeover.
Today, we’re also featuring a 1962 interview with Sylvia Plath. In popular culture, Plath is known for three things: (1) she wrote angry poems, (2) she killed herself, and (3) teenage girls who feel angry and a little gothy read her to feel angrier and a little gothier. But look a little further, and you’ll find a deeply philosophical poet, a master of unusual similes that set the reader rocking back on their heels, and a refuser of obvious or comfortable ideas, particularly about motherhood, femininity, and the reality of existing in a physical body. There’s a lot to learn from her densely layered, uncompromising verse. Looking for a few examples of her work beyond those poems you might have already seen? Here’s one, and another, and another.
And last but not least, here’s our (optional) prompt for the day: the Bop. The invention of poet Afaa Michael Weaver, the Bop is a kind of combination sonnet + song. Like a Shakespearan sonnet, it introduces, discusses, and then solves (or fails to solve) a problem. Like a song, it relies on refrains and repetition. In the basic Bop poem, a six-line stanza introduces the problem, and is followed by a one-line refrain. The next, eight-line stanza discusses and develops the problem, and is again followed by the one-line refrain. Then, another six-line stanza resolves or concludes the problem, and is again followed by the refrain. Here’s an example of a Bop poem written by Weaver, and here’s another by the poet Ravi Shankar.
Yesterday I got as far as reading the examples and writing out my frame. Today I sat down to write my first ever Bop. My first attempt worked technically and was something I needed to write out of myself. It stands as a poem, but didn’t say enough. Then I thought back to recent events in Birmingham. The EDL marched on the city and one of my friends was racially abused. I wanted to write about that. Go Back Home
Saffiyah Khan’s photo (smiling at protestors as she stepped in to defend a woman who was surrounded) has gone viral, I watched a video interview with her yesterday and the whole thing needs to be united against. It seems to me the Bop is a perfect form for such a political statement. So I set back to my page again.
I am working on a re-write and depending on whether I bag an open mic slot at HOWL tonight, might share it with the city.
Our multi-cultural city stands united.
Carrie Etter’s prompt was to describe an image in 2-5 lines and use this as the end of the poem and work back from there.
I wrote about the image of Saffiyah Khan
The Independent © 2017
Fighting against this dark veil
shrouding Centenary Square.
I think it is important for people to know that there were Unity Rallies, Counter Protestors and demonstrations, like the tea party held at the Mosque. 300 attended that, there were 50 EDL members. The protest was originally planned for the East Midlands, but moved to Birmingham after the Westminster attacks.
Saffiyah was not a counter-protestor, she was just in the city and came to this woman’s aid. Stepped in where others looked on.
I was not there – I was in the city in 2014 when the EDL came, I was performing at an event at the Library for Birmingham Literature Festival, an event that one poet pulled out of because her skin was the wrong colour that day. I was afraid and I was inside the library. Saffiyah states she wasn’t being brave, but it takes a lot to stand up like this. Look how straight her back is!
Jo Bell shares Late Fragment by Raymond Carver http://www.jobell.org.uk/
The Poetry School gave us Day 11: Old English Day
Old English or Anglo-Saxon verse is fascinating and powerful. To write in a typical Anglo-Saxon way, you need:
· lines with 4 stresses (though it doesn’t matter how many feet, i.e. your line can be as short as ‘Hold. Stay! Hold, hold!’ or as long as you want providing it only has 4 stresses)
· an optional central caesura or pause between stress 2 and 3
· alliteration of 3 of the 4 stress words (this doesn’t have to be on the first syllable if the stress is on a later syllable, e.g. although would alliterate on ‘th’).
It’s all very flexible though. If you want to alliterate 2 of the words, or all 4, or you want to skip your caesura, that’s absolutely fine. Sound complicated? It’s not! You’ll soon get the hang of it and it’s a very natural, flowing way to write.
It’ll all be much easier with an example few lines from Simon Armitage’s translation of ‘Gawain’ (which is actually a Middle English revival of the alliterative style). The stresses are indicated in bold.
as he heaped his hair to the crown of his head,
the nape of his neck now naked and ready.
Gawain grips the axe and heaves it heavenwards,
A longer extract can be found here https://www.theguardian.com/books/2006/dec/16/poetry.simonarmitage
Well after an epic morning writing the gaps I am finally back on track with prompts for NaPoWriMo.
Here is what is on offer over at http://www.napowrimo.net/day-nine-3/
Our featured participant for the day is Ordinary Average Thoughts, the repetition poem.
Today, our interview is with Thomas Lux. When he passed away earlier this year, he was the author of twenty books of poetry. Known for his sardonic verse (titles of his books include Pecked To Death By Swans and Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy), Lux taught for many years at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, as well as in other writing programs around the country. Find examples of his poems here and here.
Finally, here is our prompt (optional, as always). Because today is the ninth day of NaPoWriMo, I’d like to challenge you to write a nine-line poem.
I wrote a very personal poem so I won’t post any snippets here. I am not sure it is one I can do anything with. So I set about writing more and after two false starts caught a poem that went somewhere.
‘…scared to ruin what is precious…
…time does not lace… with its trace…’
Carrie Etter’s prompt leaves me with a lump in my throat before I even attempt pen to paper. Writing about loss. Writing about the month of loss and listing all the horrible things about the month then revealing in the endline that this was the month of loss. I am thinking of a friend who died, who I miss dearly.
I came back to writing this a while later, an incredibly short poem of 10 lines. Powerful, going somewhere.
…frost grieved evenings…
snow bleached hospital sheets…
November took you to that colourless place.
Jo Bell under a post called leaping greenly, gives us an untitled poem by EE Cummings. http://www.jobell.org.uk/
In her post she shares the EE Cummings poem that first got her into poetry (thank goodness, a poetry world without Jo in it would be a poorer place). At 17 she wrote out the last two verses, Jo writes It can be explained, just as happiness can be explained as a ratio of endorphins – but that’s not the point of either poetry or happiness.
Which made me smile.
I am a Cummings fan and this was an insightful read. Enjoyed spending some time with Cummings.
Over at The Poetry School calls for a response poem.
Day 9: Response poem
Morning all. Today’s challenge is a response poem: argue against, agree with, re-write, or converse with someone else’s poem. The difficulty, of course, lies in making your poem stand up on its own. © The Poetry School 2017
You met our Guest Writer, Gaia Harper, you read she won the Foyle Young Poet prize in 2015. Here’s where you find out about the competition and hear a BBC Radio interview Gaia excitedly managed when she was in London for the prize giving last year.
Every year, 15 young people across the country are selected as top winners of the Foyle Young Poets competition. In 2015 judged by esteemed poets Liz Berry and Michael Symmons Roberts. There were thousands of entries from all over the world.
The winning entries were anthologised in Wolves of Normality
Image copyright 2015 The Poetry Society
You can read them here
The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award is the biggest award for writers aged 11-17. It welcomes poems on any theme and entry is completely FREE.
Since it began the Award has kick-started the career of some of today’s most exciting new voices. Past winners include Sarah Howe, Helen Mort and Caroline Bird.
© 2016 The Poetry Society
The Guardian also publish the winning poems, read them all here https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2015/oct/08/foyle-young-poets-winners-2015-poetry-day
RADIO INTERVIEW with Gaia Harper
Gaia-Rose Harper is interviewed by BBC Radio Shropshire on National Poetry Day about her prize-winning poem ‘Columbia Calling’. Gaia-Rose’s poem was chosen from over 12000 entries from 69 countries as one of the 15 winners of the 2015 Foyle Young Poets Award.
In the photo, Gaia-Rose gets her picture taken with poet Liz Berry, one of the judges of the competition.
This year they received over 10,000 entries. The judges were Malika Booker and W.N. Herbert. Find out more about the 2016 results here
Gaia Harper talks to Nina Lewis about her love of language, why poetry is important and winning Foyle Young Poets prize in our exclusive INKSPILL interview.
Can you describe a time when you realised creating (writing) was something you absolutely had to do?
As soon as I had read Howl by Allen Ginsberg, I knew I had to write. That was the defining moment for me; it still continues to be one of the most powerful influences behind everything I write.
Who are some of your favourite poets?
Ever since I first got into poetry I’ve adored the Beats, so I’d have to say Allen Ginsberg. Rainer Maria Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus is one of my favourite collections, and anything by Whitman catches my eye. As for modern poets, I’ve recently got into Sarah Howe and Claudia Rankine.
Why is poetry important?
To quote Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society, “We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.” Poetry is in everything you or I do, in the folding of a napkin, the simple act of smiling. We would be stupid to ignore it.
What comes first in a poem, are you prompted by the idea or form?
Most of my poetry is purely spontaneous; I am rarely one of those people who can sit down and choose to write on a certain topic. The smallest things can trigger a poem for me. Often song lyrics or quotes from films prompt ideas; writing purely on a song or film is something I’ve recently got into. I have a love-hate relationship with form, as most of what I write is in free verse, however I love playing with form from time to time; I’m a big fan of a loose sonnet.
What books are you currently reading?
Salem’s Lot by Stephen King and Naked Lunch by William Burroughs. I love books that make you think, but sometimes you need a good horror to get your teeth into. Poetry wise, I’m currently flicking through Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman.
What was it like entering the Foyle competition?
To be honest, I was dubious about entering at first considering the vast number of entries, so it took me a long time to get around to submitting. When I eventually sent them off, the anticipation was awful, but obviously the results were worth the wait.
How did you find Arvon with Liz Berry & Michael Symmons?
It was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. Liz and Michael are such lovely people as well as poets, and they are so supportive. It was strangely wonderful to be able to have a lesson with them, and then have Liz helping you cook dinner.
Are you a member of the Young Poets Network?
I’ve been a member of the Young Poets Network for a couple of years now. Everything they post comes straight to my email, so it’s great to get unexpected prompts and competitions I could enter.
Do you have any advice for aspiring young poets?
To any young poets out there, I would say ignore everything anyone has ever told you about what poetry has to be. School is never going to teach you a thing about poetry, even if it tries. Rant and shout about every little thing you want to, and write it all down. Don’t let anyone put parameters around your writing; whether it be a rhyme scheme or a way of feeling. What teenagers write is often dismissed as angsty; fight back. Write whatever the hell you want.
Following on from the earlier workshop ‘Objects to hang our words on’, Roy takes us deeper into exercises and writing in the next session ‘Letters, Phone Calls and Texting’.
This workshop focuses on poetry from Pascale Petit and Roy McFarlane. You are invited to extend on your earlier writing. So take a deep breath and dive in.
Arrival of the Electric Eel from Fauverie by Pascale Petit
Each time I open it I feel like a Matses girl
handed a parcel at the end of her seclusion,
my face pierced by jaguar whiskers
to make me brave.
I know what’s inside – that I must
unwrap the envelope of leaves
until all that’s left
squirming in my hands
is an electric eel.
The positive head, the negative tail,
the rows of batteries under the skin,
the smell, almost blind eyes,
The day turns murky again,
I’m wading through the bottom of my life
when my father’s letter arrives. And keeps on arriving.
The charged fibres of paper
against my shaking fingers,
the thin electroplates of ink.
The messenger drags me up to the surface
to gulp air then flicks its anal fin.
Never before has a letter been so heavy,
growing to two metres in my room,
the address, the phone number, then the numbness
I know you must be surprised, it says,
but I will die soon and want to make contact.
Pascale captures the dread of opening a correspondence, there’s that association with an indigenous girl from the Amazon, a brave Matses girl, the knowledge of knowing and then we have the electric eel. The letter is alive; charged fibres of paper, thin electroplates of ink. Now feel the weight of the letter watch it grow two metres and then the last two lines leave us in turmoil.
The next one is Leaves are falling from my collection Beginning with your last breath. Autumn plays a big part here, the way I guess things slow down when you hear bad news, like leaves falling but for me a storm is coming and you pray that the weather forecasters have got it wrong.
I didn’t notice the leaves falling
the day they told me it would be
weeks more than months.
The rest of their words
fell softly on deaf ground.
I remembered in the morning
they had forecast an oncoming storm,
the tail end of a hurricane
from the Caribbean seas.
What do they know?
They never get things right,
it will never ever reach here.
Beginning with your last Breath by Roy McFarlane – buy a copy here
Fauverie by Pascale Petit – buy a copy here