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!
The difficulty with writing about a festival a month after you went (and have since filled the past 30 days with more glorious poetry) is things tend to get forgotten or blend as one. This is a sign of how stand-out many of the MASS PF events were. I only have to look at the title of the session and the event comes flooding back to me.
So, here for your pleasure is the 2nd part of my MASS Poetry Festival write up. After all, it won’t happen again for a couple of years.
Saturday 15th May
Ecopoetry: Words in Balance
As the rainforest burns and wildfires rage, as climate change threatens our world, poets can bear witness, reflecting on the intricate interconnectedness of humanity, our planet, and nature. We are nature. EcoPoetry offers us a lifeline to hidden worlds and reminds us of our shared reliance on nature. This session explores the role of the poet as activist, as chronicler of destruction, as truth teller. In this reading, poets Fred Marchant, Jennifer Barber, Deborah Leipziger and Myronn Hardy share their ecopoems and reflect on the power of EcoPoetry to transform and heal our world and ourselves.
Fred Marchant has authored five books of poetry, the most recent of which, Said Not Said, was named an Honored Book by the Massachusetts Book Awards. He has edited Another World Instead: The Early Poetry of William Stafford, and, co-translated (with Nguyen Ba Chung) works by several contemporary Vietnamese poets.
Deborah Leipziger is a poet, author, and advisor on sustainability. Her chapbook, Flower Map, was published by Finishing Line Press. Born in Brazil, Ms. Leipziger is the author of several books on sustainability. Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, her poems have been published in literary magazines in four countries.
Jennifer Barber’s new collection, The Sliding Boat Our Bodies Made, is forthcoming from The Word Works in 2022. Her book Works on Paper was published by The Word Works in 2016, and her two previous collections, both from Kore Press, are Given Away, and Rigging the Wind.
Myronn Hardy is the author of five books of poems, most recently, Radioactive Starlings, published by Princeton University Press (2017). His poems have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Virginia Quarterly Review, the Baffler, Rhino, and elsewhere.
This was a generous event, introductory poems by other great poets and some wonderfully powerful poetry. The poets shared context for their poems and sometimes process. I could have listened to all four of them for hours! An incredible Q&A after the readings too. Great interaction with the audience.
My two main USA hangouts since Lockdown 2020 have been The Walt Whitman Birthplace and the Emily Dickinson Museum. Both organisations have offered amazingly creative online content. Emily Dickinson was my first poet. One I have loved the work of all my life. I started learning about her life as a teenager and have never let go. I can’t believe it took a Lockdown to get me searching online for the Museum. I have certainly made up for it since!
Walt Whitman didn’t hit my radar until I came back to writing in 2013, but swiftly found his place in my heart and bookshelf. There is something incredibly magic about words that last the centuries and are still relevant today.
I had booked on the Annual poetry walk before MASS PF released the programme – but it is great that it fell during the festival and was part of it.
“Called Back”: A Virtual Emily Dickinson Poetry Walk
Days before her death in 1886, Emily Dickinson wrote her final letter, “Little Cousins, / Called Back. / Emily”. On May 15, the 135th anniversary of the poet’s death, join the Emily Dickinson Museum for an engaging virtual poetry reading and “walk” through Amherst, the town she called “paradise.” At each stop, we will see historical and contemporary images of sites of meaning for Dickinson including her garden and conservatory at the Homestead, The Evergreens — home to the poet’s brother and sister-in-law; the town common; Amherst College; and more. Not a lecture, this program infuses place with poetry. At each stop contemporary poets share their Dickinson-inspired poems and volunteers read Dickinson’s own words aloud. The final stop is Dickinson’s grave in West Cemetery where we will share reflections and a light-hearted virtual toast!
Elizabeth Bolton has a PhD in Literacy Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. She writes articles, essays and poems about the connection between writing and mental health. She grew up in northern California and now lives in Niagara Falls, Ontario with her husband and two daughters.
Lori Desrosiers’ poetry books are The Philosopher’s Daughter, Sometimes I Hear the Clock Speak, and Keeping Planes in the Air, all from Salmon Poetry. Two chapbooks, Inner Sky and Typing with e.e. cummings, are from Glass Lyre Press. She edits Naugatuck River Review, a journal of narrative poetry and Wordpeace.co, an online journal dedicated to social justice.
Hannah Baker Saltmarsh is the author of the poetry collection, Hysterical Water, published by The University of Georgia Press in March 2021. She has written a book of poetry criticism, entitled Male Poets and the Agon of the Mother: Contexts in Confessional and Post-confessional Poetry (Univ. of South Carolina P., 2019). She is the mother of three children, and lives with her husband in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where she teaches and writes.
Kate Godin lives in Western Massachusetts, where she tends to the writing needs of a small liberal arts college, a tween and a teen, a vigorous anxiety. She is a graduate of Bates College and the New School for Social Research.
Bonnie Larson Staiger is a North Dakota Associate Poet Laureate, the recipient of the ‘Poetry of the Plains and Prairies Prize (NDSU Press, 2018) and the ‘Independent Press Award: Distinguished Favorite’ (2019) for her collection, Destiny Manifested. Her second book In Plains Sight, is forthcoming from NDSU Press in 2021.
Robin Long is a queer poet and writer from Austin. She is expanding her fiction thesis on Emily Dickinson. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, 2020 National Poetry Month Editor’s Pick, and a digital poetry performer with FEELS Zine.
Siri Palreddy is a first-year at Amherst College, hoping to study both English and Neuroscience. An avid reader, she first discovered Emily Dickinson in high school, and has loved her work ever since. Apart from poetry, Siri enjoys writing creative nonfiction and is compelled by stories that navigate one’s identity (or identities) and roots. When not reading or writing, you can find Siri spending her free time volunteering, laying in the sun, or rewatching her favorite comfort shows.
Peter Schmitt is the author of six books of poems. “Emily Dickinson and the Boston Red Sox” appears in his new collection, Goodbye, Apostrophe (Regal House). A graduate of Amherst and The Iowa Writers Workshop, he lives and teaches in his hometown of Miami, Florida.
Don Skoog is a freelance musician, writer, and teacher living in Oak Park, Illinois. He plays Classical percussion and Jazz drums, as well as Latin American, Arabic, and Persian instruments. He authors books and articles on exploring culture through music—the latest, in Arabic, for The University of Chicago’s Majala magazine—and has written four novels (not all of them published yet). The poem Amherst, is from Adventures in the RhythmVerse, his first chapbook.
Rebecca Starks is the author of the poetry collections Time Is Always Now, a finalist for the 2019 Able Muse Book Award, and Fetch, Muse (forthcoming from Able Muse Press), and is the recipient of Rattle’s 2018 Neil Postman Award for Metaphor. She lives in Richmond, Vermont.
Abigail Price is a 24 year old English poet, writer and Undergraduate student studying Criminology, Criminal Justice and Social Policy at the University of Wolverhampton in England. Most of Abigail’s work is inspired by her past and significantly, nature which aided her recovery from mental illness in her early teenage years. Abigail is an avid writer & reader and her dream is to influence social change through British politics alongside writing beautiful poetry to leave people a little bit better, than when her poems found them.
This tradition has been ongoing for 37 years it was initiated by a group of Amherst based Dickinson enthusiasts and was adopted by the Emily Dickinson museum. And today it continues to draw new and returning devotees each year we’re so thrilled that you’re here with us.
A deeply celebratory event, one you can watch on the website link above. On the virtual poetry walk we visited six locations significant to the life of the have Emily Dickinson. Ten contemporary poets and volunteers read the poetry as we had the full text shown on screen, along with archive resources and photographs. Lots of historical information cleverly weaved through the event. It was beautiful.
It was one of those events which fully absorbs you! The laying of daisies towards the end was extremely emotional especially because of the pandemic and all those lives we have lost. A toast and choral reading at the end made us all feel connected across the world too.
After the event we were able to sign the virtual Guest Book.
A beautiful poetry walk to take with you all at teatime in the UK. Lovely choral reading to toast Emily and finish the event. Felt very connected, glad you could be part of the MASS Poetry Festival. Very excited to hear more about the restoration too. Carpets from England. …For what are Stars but Asterisks To point a human Life? (FR 1673)
A magical experience.
My final MASS PF event of the day was the Headline reading. I am a massive fan of Naomi Shihab Nye’s writing and always enjoy watching her readings. They have been a big part of my 2020+ Lockdown.
Headline Reading with Porsha Olayiwola, Tyehimba Jess, and Naomi Shihab Nye
Sponsored by The Grolier Poetry Book Shop
Black, futurist, poet, dyke, hip-hop feminist, womanist: Porsha is a native of Chicago who now resides in Boston. Olayiwola is a writer, performer, educator, and curator who uses afro-futurism and surrealism to examine historical and current issues in the Black, woman, and queer diasporas. She is an Individual World Poetry Slam Champion and the artistic director at MassLEAP, a literary youth organization. Olayiwola is an MFA Candidate at Emerson College. Porsha Olayiwola is the author of i shimmer sometimes, too forthcoming with Button Poetry, and is the current poet laureate for the city of Boston.
Tyehimba Jess is the author of two books of poetry, Leadbelly and Olio. Olio won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, The Midland Society Author’s Award in Poetry, and received an Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. It was also nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN Jean Stein Book Award, and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. Leadbelly was a winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series. The Library Journal and Black Issues Book Review both named it one of the “Best Poetry Books of 2005.”
Jess, a Cave Canem and NYU Alumni, received a 2004 Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and was a 2004–2005 Winter Fellow at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. Jess is also a veteran of the 2000 and 2001 Green Mill Poetry Slam Team, and won a 2000–2001 Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Poetry, the 2001 Chicago Sun-Times Poetry Award, and a 2006 Whiting Fellowship. He presented his poetry at the 2011 TedX Nashville Conference and won a 2016 Lannan Literary Award in Poetry. He received a Guggenheim fellowship in 2018. Jess is a Professor of English at College of Staten Island.
Jess’ fiction and poetry have appeared in many journals, as well as anthologies such as Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry, Beyond The Frontier: African American Poetry for the Twenty-First Century, Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature and Art, Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam, Power Lines: Ten Years of Poetry from Chicago’s Guild Complex, and Slam: The Art of Performance Poetry.
Naomi Shihab Nye
Naomi Shihab Nye has been a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Witter Bynner Fellow (Library of Congress). She has received a Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, four Pushcart Prizes, the Robert Creeley Prize, and “The Betty Prize” from Poets House, for service to poetry, and numerous honors for her children’s literature, including two Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards. In 2011 Nye won the Golden Rose Award given by the New England Poetry Club, the oldest poetry reading series in the country. Her collection, 19 Varieties of Gazelle, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her work has been presented on National Public Radio on A Prairie Home Companion and The Writer’s Almanac. She has been featured on two PBS poetry specials including “The Language of Life with Bill Moyers” and also appeared on NOW with Bill Moyers. She has been affiliated with The Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin for 20 years and also poetry editor at The Texas Observer for 20 years. In 2019-2020 she was the editor for New York Times Magazine poems. She is Chancellor Emeritus for the Academy of American Poets, a laureate of the 2013 NSK Neustadt Award for Children’s Literature, and in 2017 the American Library Association presented Naomi Shihab Nye with the 2018 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award. In 2018 the Texas Institute of Letters awarded her the Lon Tinkle Award for Lifetime Achievement. She was named the 2019-2021 Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. In 2020 she was awarded the Ivan Sandrof Award for Lifetime Achievement by the National Book Critics Circle. Nye is professor of Creative Writing – Poetry at Texas State University.
It was a great introduction (for me) to both Porsha Olayiwola’s work and Tyehimba Jess. Olayiwola’s reading focused on social poetry, historical commentary and current issues facing black women. It was a totally enthralling and powerful set. She is a woman who harnesses poetic courage and uses it well.
Tyehimba Jess was fantastic – I could have listened to him for hours. So many hard hitting, grabbing lines.
‘What I know good starts with a brick and ends with a book
and bleeds in between,’
Jess bridges Slam and Academic poetry, I could hear the Blues influence in the rhythm of is work, the feel of it.
And as for Naomi Shihab Nye – wow. Generous and endearing as always. Quietly getting her point across. Passionate and dedicated to the work of poetry. The way she can approach such difficult subjects with complete gentleness is beyond me. She started with sharing her reasons for admiring MA poetic history, the poets who have come from this part of the world and she read a poem by a young Californian poet she knows, Emily Ligron. The MASS PF as a whole seemed to be very proactive in promoting unsung voices and the work of other famous, important poets from the area.
MASS Poetry Festival was amazing, I am so glad that I was able to attend the hybrid event, it is a Biennial event and the programme was huge, extensive & creative. They had over 50 events featuring over 100 poets. This was the first festival since the 10th Anniversary in 2018. Headline poets included: Victoria Chang, Jos Charles, Martín Espada, Tyehimba Jess, Patricia Spears Jones, Lang Leav, Khadijah Queen, Naomi Shihab Nye, Ariana Reines, Dara Wier & more.
It was a joy to spot some of the Worcester MA (A Tale of Two Cities Project) poets on the bill and often in the audience too. It was a busy weekend – because, (as with all festivals) there was a clash, I was attending events for what felt like the whole 48hrs – it wasn’t!
What I also liked was the website booking system which enabled you to keep track of your own festival schedule, very handy. Especially when not in real life with a paper copy in your pocket.
The time zones meant much of the programme was quite late for BST (UK) and I was working unexpectedly out in the real world too, so it was a juggling act to hang onto all the event bookings. Sadly I missed the finale but as Mr. G hadn’t seen me most of the weekend it seemed only fair. I felt jet lagged by about 6pm Sunday!
Headline Reading with Victoria Chang and Khadijah Queen
I was excited to see Victoria Chang reading after recently reading her poetry in April (NaPoWriMo) and getting obsessed with OBIT and how she handles the hardest subjects in the most beautiful poetry.
The reading was opened by the winners of MASS PF First Poem Contest: Samn Stockwell, Samantha DeFlitch, and Emily Joan Cooper.
Khadijah Queen was the other headline act on the Opening Reading – I absolutely loved this reading and was glad to catch Khadijah later in the festival too.
Khadijah Queen is the author of five books of poetry, most recently I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On (YesYes Books, 2017), a finalist for the National Poetry Series, which was praised in O Magazine, The New Yorker, Los Angeles Review, and elsewhere as “quietly devastating,” and “a portrait of defiance that turns the male gaze inside out.”
Victoria Chang’s new book of poetry, OBIT, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2020 and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, longlisted for a National Book Award, as well as longlisted for a PEN-Voeckler Award. OBIT was also named a TIME Magazine, Publishers Weekly, NPR, Boston Globe Best Book of the Year, and a New York Times Notable Book.
As well as a diverse range of events, there were other things happening – some in real life some online. Such as the online Ekphrastic Gallery – which of course I enjoyed. Work by twelve amazingly gifted student artists from Montserrat College of Art, paired with bespoke poems by the winners of our Ekphrastic Gallery contest. This gallery was created thanks to the amazing work of Montserrat Faculty Members Colleen Michaels and Dawn Paul.
And the Improbable Places Walking Tour – another highlight. An audio tour highlighting some of the most memorable stops on The Improbable Places Poetry Tour has been made for your listening pleasure. The Improbable Places Poetry Tour, a reading series organized by Colleen Michaels of Montserrat College of Art, has run for over a decade around Beverly, Salem, and the North Shore bringing poetry and the community together in unexpected places. Yes, even in a swimming pool. This audio tour version will feature stops around the Massachusetts North Shore and can be enjoyed either with a day trip or virtually.
My Friday schedule started with this powerful reading.
New Elegies: How do we turn grief into song?
Four poets read from new collections that wrestle with the bounds and opportunities of the American elegy. Readings with Sumita Chakraborty, Rebecca Morgan Frank (who I have being enjoying over 2020/21), Erin Carlyle & Jessica Guzman.
Followed by an enjoyable/relaxed workshop with Kelly DuMar: How Pictures Heal.
In the midst of our shifting daily realities, I believe this one experience remains a constant: We all take and treasure photographs of the people, places and things that bring meaning and beauty into our lives. – Kelly DuMar
The Thing With Feathers: Poetry of Witness to Serious Illness and Trauma
Contemporary poets discuss their own poems dealing with serious illness and what they reveal about hope, what Emily Dickinson called “the thing with feathers”.
I have been writing trauma and illness recently, so was interested in this reading and discussion. It was really hard to decide as some of the events I wanted to go to clashed – decisions had to be made.
Oliver de la Paz (I discovered Oliver’s work in the 1st Lockdown), Jennifer Franklin (who hosts many of the Hudson Valley Writers events I have attended and who I heard read at the Emily Dickinson Museum), Fred Marchant (who was also part of the EDM reading) and Justin Wymer.
I am glad I made the decision to attend this reading, a rich discussion between poets and some heartening poems. As the programme stated: Sometimes, however, the poet finds hope, even in a factually hopeless situation. What is it in us that persists in singing, regardless of how dire the facts?
The final event I attended on Friday was the Headline Reading.
The second headline reading of the Festival, featured Lang Leav (who I recently discovered and then enjoyed a workshop she facilitated on prose poetry) and Dara Wier, with an opening reading by National Youth Poet Laureate Meera Dasgupta.
Meera Dasgupta is the youngest United States Youth Poet Laureate appointed in the history of the country. She is also the first U.S. Youth Poet Laureate to have been appointed from New York (as well as the Northeastern region) and the first Asian-American Youth Poet Laureate of the United States.
Novelist and poet Lang Leav was born in a refugee camp when her family were fleeing the Khmer Rouge Regime. She spent her formative years in Sydney, Australia, in the predominantly migrant town of Cabramatta. Among her many achievements, Lang is the winner of a Qantas Spirit of Youth Award, Churchill Fellowship and Goodreads Reader’s Choice Award.
Dara Wier’s books include In the Still of the Night (Wave Books, 2017), You Good Thing (Wave Books, 2013), Selected Poems (Wave Books, 2009), Remnants of Hannah (Wave Books, 2006), Reverse Rapture (Verse Press, 2005; 2006 Poetry Center Book Award), Hat On a Pond (Verse Press, 2002), and Voyages in English (Carnegie Mellon, 2001).
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.
This post brings me joy! In 2019/20 I was commissioned by Elephant’s Footprint to produce 10 animated poetry films for Poetry Renewed. Helen Dewbery and Chaucer Cameron are currently on the panel at REELpoetry and they have taken lots of their work to show. Also worth checking out is the Poetry Film work of Kathy Gee and Lucy English.
I was delighted when Helen told me they would be showing Territory – one of my favourite animations and also one of my most liked recovery poems. It was shown on the 24th February on the opening day of the festival, as part of the Short Segments programme. The good news? You can still watch the festival videos until 6th March, ticket details and information can be found here. http://www.publicpoetry.net/#SE
Huge gratitude to Helen and Chaucer for the opportunity to do something creative with my failing body and for taking Territory on a road trip!
Territory is one of the three poems published in an up and coming anthology The Brown Envelope Book – Caparison Books in collaboration with Don’t Go Breaking Our Arts and Culture Matters, edited by Alan Morrison. It is the first time anything from this body of work was submitted for publication, so I am delighted they took all three!
November finally saw a return to work after 8 months, an anxious time but also a great relief! It was a busy month on and offline. I had more medical appointments and another hospital appointment. But the balance was a month packed with Poetry / Literary Festivals!
At the end of October and beginning of November I enjoyed Dodge Poetry Festival and the packed programme of poetry. I shared a sea theme poem at Wirral Poetry Festival at an evening featuring Philip Gross, watched Andrew McMillan at Todmorden Book Festival, saw Padraig O’Tauna read several times. Watched Sandwell Stories, enjoyed Ankh Spice back in action at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival, HAY had a WINTER Festival Weekend. I joined the final weekend of Culturama.
I had the opportunity to watch Heidi Williamson in action again at The Oxford Centre for Life Writing, Worcester University have also brought part of the Creative Writing Readings online and I managed to catch Hannah Lowe in action (it has been many years since I last saw her read). I caught an event at the Uni of Oxford with Rishi Dastidar on The Craft – a book he wrote a few years ago.
I enjoyed the tail end (dog pun) of Matt Black‘s Book Launch – ‘Sniffing Lamp-posts by Moonlight’ A fundraising book of dog poems.
I did a workshop with Lansing Poet Laureate, Laura Apol, I attended more Creative Conversations at Glasgow University, I enjoyed events at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, continued with Ledbury Poetry Festival workshops, Poets in Motion and Food for Thought and Grief workshops, we had an open mic to celebrate the end of the Hybrid Experimental Memoir with Tawnya Renelle – a relaxed and fun affair!
I did a Nevada Hall of Fame workshop and a personal highlight of the month was the George Szirtesworkshop thanks to Artful Scibe, Mayflower 400 Celebrations in Southampton.
I got involved writing for the Rebellion series with Sheffield Libraries and Nik Perring and started work on his Dear 2020/21 project in association with the BBC/Novels that Shaped Our World and Sheffield Libraries. More news to come. Room 204 provided a special workshop with Thomas Glave, in which we reflected on 2020.
I forgave myself for the deadlines whizzing past and focussed on the successes.
I was a featured poet at Virtual Voices Offa’s Press (10th Nov.) alongside Kenton Samuels, Keith Rogers, Santosh K. Dary and Jeff Phelps. I read at the Reimagine Festival (USA) as part of Redwing’s Poetry for Healing group.
I ran a series of Workshops for The National Star Centre, my gratitude to Ruth, Paul and the team in Cheltenham and to Cheltenham Poetry Festival. These were rewarding mornings where inspiration travelled in both directions!
I was published in the BLER Light Anthology (Black Light Engine Room), had two poems published in Corona, an Anthology of Poems – Edited by Gayl Teller in USA (more on this soon), I had a Renga accepted for a collaborative project in the US, I had two poems published in Geography is Irrelevant – Stairwell Bookshttp://www.stairwellbooks.co.uk/product/geography-is-irrelevant/. This anthology includes International Poets who were active online at events in the UK during 2020. More on this soon and a poem accepted for the Dear 2021 Pamphlet produced for the Year of Reading/BBC/ Novels that Shaped Our World with Nik Perring.
Like many of us I wrote about the pandemic in the end (resistance was futile, especially as I self-isolated and had a limited palette of outside life experiences) -not that inspiration was lacking, with all the workshops and 5 notepads of ideas… anyway, I wrote Covid poems and didn’t submit them to any of the Lockdown projects or websites collecting such things. I am grateful that there were a few options left at the end of the year, places to to share them. Now, like the rest of 2020 they can be released!
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.
September brought the kids back to school and students back to university and huge peaks in cases. After five months off work I was due to go back in as soon as bookings came through. This was a bleak month of no work. Something which is sadly the fate of millions since the beginning of the pandemic. It was a month that left me feeling pretty empty, so I filled it!
Like a new student, I signed up for a new class Hybrid & Experimental Memoir with Tawnya Renelle and looked at courses on Future Learn. I was having to complete Covid related staff training even though there was no work, which I found frustrating – necessary yes, but the only people who could possible struggle with gaining the certificate at the end of it are those who have literally buried their heads in the sand and watched/read no news for the past year!
There were a few festivals and book launches to keep me buoyant (and more importantly busy). I recorded the audio for Connect Dudley project (hoping to tell you more about this soon). I was Poet in Residence for Cheltenham Poetry Festival and I had a LIVE interview with Kate Justice for BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester. UEA hosted Noirwich, Crime Writing Festival and Worcestershire LitFest hosted a Festival 13-19th. Which was the same time as Tell It Slant Festival over the pond at the Emily Dickinson Museum. And Perth Poetry Festival was 18th -27th they managed to get LIVE events, a hybrid of live and virtual and some virtual all mixed into the programme. It just made me want to be there again!
I went to Kevin Reid‘s Book Launch for Suitcase (4word, 2020). It was a real treat. Discover the book for yourself here. https://eyeosphere.com/ Later in the month was the launch of Carole Bromley‘s new collection The Peregrine Falcons of York Minster (Valley Press, 2020) https://www.carolebromleypoetry.co.uk/books/. I have missed Carole’s readings and it was a joy!
As festival Poet in Residence for Cheltenham Poetry Festival I attended and performed at CPF events this month including: Z.D.Dicks Reading & Open Mic and Across the Oceans with David Hanlon and Elisabeth Horan. I headlined for Cheltenham Poetry Festival alongside Joe Cook, it was good to see/hear him again – a magical experience! And speaking of magic…
One of the workshops I attended was pure magic too – in fact, it was in the title, but we’re writers… we know titles give no guarantee! It was called The Magic of an Ordinary Day and it was mindfully slow paced with an entire offline section for lunch and encouraged wanderings. I met my mum (socially distanced) at the local park and we had a catch up and I took a bounty of pictures to inspire my afternoon writing. Plenty of people watching in amongst nature and for someone who rarely leaves the house now it was a blessing. Sue Emm was the facilitator of this online wandering & writing workshop from Open School East. It was a wonderfully, relaxed and I was certainly glad I’d committed a day to do it. Huge gratitude to Sue Emm.
The Worcestershire LitFest started, as it always does, with the Worcestershire Poet Laureate Competition. This year’s finalists were all worthy of the crown. The new Worcestershire Poet Laureate was announced for 2020-21 as Leena Batchelor – read more here.
Festival posts and links to follow.
I managed to attend a few open mics and events including Philip Gross and Heidi Williamson at Cafe Writers, That Poetry Zoom (Canberra), a Masterclass in writing and publishing, Wordcraft, Jerwood Arts Events, some PPP gigs and I visited the real library building (where the covid measures far outrank some places of work) and returned my 3 loans read by April and borrowed 9 books, fearing they would have to close again. I have PLENTY of books at home I could be reading, but they are mainly chosen and I feel I want to read them in pleasant(er) times. Perhaps now is the time to challenge my genres, pull out those books I would not otherwise attempt and that’s why I use the library. Plus I love the library, most people have been missing the night out, the pub… me, that room full of books none of which are mine.
I fuelled some of my grief into The Loss Project and found solace in a group I have been attending since the summer over in the States with Judith Redwing Keyssar, who has provided Food For Thought Poetry Cafes and Loss, losing, Loosening workshops weekly. https://redwingkeyssar.com/. Just letting it pour out is important and for me, part of the healing. I attended the Collective Trauma Summit, they had an amazing selection of poets/ poetry readings.
By September, Lockdown had lifted, but I was still living very much in isolation. With no money it wasn’t so much a challenge to stay inside. I had to go to hospital in September, they are places some of us need to be brave and use, but it was the biggest challenge I have faced. I had to go alone – the whole experience pre-covid would have been bad, in addition there was the wearing of the mask for hours and the additional safety test requirements. I counted every day after carefully indeed, but looking back I needed something this big because in a few months time there would be much needed work. The first day back was terrifying but it would have been worse without this bridge.
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.