Category Archives: poetry

Verve Poetry Festival: Day 3 Poetry Breakfast

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Verve Poetry Festival had nearly 40 events, I spent the whole day at the festival both Saturday and Sunday, missing only the children’s events some workshops and some performances (because of workshops).

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POETRY BREAKFAST

Saturday kicked off with Roz Goddard and Cynthia Miller treating us to a Poetry Breakfast. Free pastries and Philip Larkin Jazz – what is there not to like? Roz opened the event with her love poem to Birmingham.

Cynthia talked about the programme and how the festival evolved from an enthusiastic tweet. One the rest of the city is grateful she sent. They hoped for an accessible poetry festival and that is exactly what they created with Verve. They wanted to reflect the spirit of Birmingham, the passion and drive and they certainly accomplished that too.

Cynthia is one of the new Primers poets (Primers Vol. 2) from The Poetry School and Nine Arches Press and will see her poetry published soon. She shared ‘Anthem for a Nasty Woman’.

Roz talked candidly about falling out of love with poetry and then falling back in love for it with the help of this festival. We all lose confidence and fall out with poetry from time to time, for me it is a weekly occurrence. It always feels good to hear others talk about what you experience, as it answers that question – is it just me? – with a resounding NO!

I really enjoyed waking early and catching a bus into town to catch this FREE event, it was definitely worth it. Even though the decision not to do a writing activity stung (my brain was ready), instead we did Speed Dating (hold onto your hat Mr.G, not like that)! It was a genius idea as it got us mingling and talking to each other about the festival and the future of poetry. We swapped three times, discussing a cue question given to us by Cynthia and moved on at the sound of a Tibetan Singing Bowl (perfect for the early hours). It was fun watching Birmingham wake up behind the screen (festival marquee).

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A great way to greet a full on day of poetry and workshops.

And it was FULL ON. The team have realised that scheduled breaks are necessary, especially as they had certain hard-core participants (Dean Atta, I may be looking at you and Angi Holden) who did 3 back-to-back workshops, that is 6 hours of focus. That is beyond most of us.

 

RELATED LINKS

Reviews of the Dice Slam and reading from Friday Night, Outspoken and Nine Arches – read them here: http://createdtoread.com/poetic-delights-verve-poetry-festival/

https://burningeyebooks.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/verve-poetry-and-diversity/

 

Verve Poetry Festival Day 2 – Part 2: Dice Slam with Apples & Snakes

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What Verve did really well and the secret behind the magic of the festival was the fusion between Spoken Word and Poetry. I always knew this was possible and the team proved it. What I really loved was people’s reaction to Spoken Word – those who had not experienced it before or wouldn’t brave a city event, found that they loved it.

There was plenty of talk over the weekend of the age demographics for both types of event but by the end of the weekend the spaces were filled with a wide range and people began to understand that it doesn’t matter. They stopped seeing it. If poetry is to thrive we need to have this commitment and enthusiasm for bridging a gap that technically doesn’t have to exist. It of course depends on what you like and I am just happy that I immerse in both forms comfortably.

To come from the relative quiet of the 2nd floor Festival Marquee to the loud, riotous mouth of the 1st floor Bar Stage and immerse ourselves in foot stamping, witness the clicking of appreciate and the howls after every poem performed was, even for a veteran of the spoken word scene, a bit of a culture shock. Like hitting London after a long weekend in the Isle of Wight!

I have been to slams, I have even braved one as a contestant. Now that I know work by heart I may brave some in the future. I had never been to a Dice Slam and I appreciate the Dadaism of scoring through chance, a roll of the dice. It made me feel sorry for the contestants with scores as low as 3 when their performances were clearly double figures, but on the other hand it took away that horrible scoring process that is always subjective at such events.

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Toby Campion, Vanessa Kissule, Skye Hawkins, Charley Genever and Kareem Parkins-Brown were the contestants and I looked forward to every performance as none are names I know. My experience of Spoken Word is bound to the city and some of the big names who headline throughout Poetryville. I love festivals for the potential of meeting and watching new to me poets.

This was an incredibly lively event, hosted by Amerah Saleh, who is a poet I know from her days with Beatfreaks and on the circuit of Birmingham. I first saw her perform at Mouth & Music on home turf. She was also one of four Podium Poets at this year’s festival. The others were Helen Calcutt, Jasmine Gardosi & Geraldine Clarkson.

THE JUDGES

We were introduced to the judges who all performed. Anna Freeman, a lecturer in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, she is also a multi-winning slam poet and if that wasn’t enough she is also a novelist. http://www.annafreemanwriter.com/

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I loved her ‘My Little Pony Poem’… ‘My Unicorn Friend, branding is a capitalist concept – so I explain this to the other six year olds…’

Dan Simpson is a poet and a producer and has a Doppelgänger working behind the café/bar in Waterstones and is published by Burning Eye. http://www.dansimpsonpoet.co.uk/verve-2-dan-simpson

© 2017 Dan Simpson (I presume)

In a peak of genius which was in keeping with the Dadaism of Dice Slamming, Dan brought this book along with him to use as a judging tool. requesting page numbers from the audience before scanning the page for relevance or reading non-relevance to justify the scores. Sometimes the universe worked and the reading was as apt as a fortune cookie fortune… other times more of a Christmas cracker joke.

Memorable, surrealistic performance… ‘what kind of 90s feminist, Disney character sandwich filler are you?’

Luke Kennard

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Who after years of not getting to see seems to be in my life right now as much as full meals. (Yesterday I had my first proper dinner for a week, so I am suggesting Luke pops up in my schedule weekly/monthly and not everyday… his family would have something to say about that I am sure!) If you haven’t discovered Luke yet, please do.

He is the new canal laureate and a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Birmingham University. He has published collections for more than 10 years, the most recent ‘Cain’ published by Penned in the Margins and has also just published a novel ‘The Transition’. transition-topping-books© 2017 Topping Books

https://www.toppingbooks.co.uk/events/bath/novelist-luke-kennard/

They had the tough job of validating dice scores and they did so with hilarious monologues/comments of worth and woe. As entertaining as the performers, although the performers threw us some very serious poem curve balls too.


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The five featured poets are all ridiculously talented writers and performers, and will converge on Birmingham from every corner of the country. It will be the first time Sky Hawkins (the North), Toby Campion (the Midlands), Kareem Parkins-Brown (London), Charley Genever (the South East), and Vanessa Kisuule (the South West) share the same stage. You may have seen some of them individually, of course, but the Dice Slam at Verve Festival really is a rare opportunity to check the pulse of poetry on a national scale at a single event. And to stop you feeling homesick, the local touch will be provided by our host, Birmingham’s own poetry powerhouse Amerah Saleh.

© 2017 Verve Team

Toby Campion reminded me of my time living in Leicester, he was very excited to be part of the Slam and grabbed hearts with his Midlands Poem. A conversation with the North and South… ‘you never acknowledge the Midlands, despite having been attached for thousands of years!’

Sky Hawkins opened the night with spectacularly hard hitting poetry. ‘Do not let the wolves teach your sons… especially if your sons are half wolves themselves.’ She was the overall winner. Receiving a massive 11 points from the dice.

Charley Genever stormed it- her Meal Deal poem went down particularly well. I liked the darkness of her poetry and that stunning flame/net mesh dress. (I know we shouldn’t belittle women by commenting on their fashion. I will mention Kareem’s bright orangey puffer jacket for balance here.) ‘A woman consumes in shades…’

Kareem Parkins-Brown performed his cake poem to great response. ‘I’d risk it for some lemon drizzle..’ and of course it opened the debate over Jaffa Cakes (biscuit)! Listen to it here: https://soundcloud.com/kareempb/cake (WARNING: Contains swearing, but you will hear how much the audience enjoyed his set).

Vanessa Kissule also pulled incredible set out of the bag having already enjoyed all other performances. I was immersed in the moment and was delighted to get to meet her briefly after the show. ‘Youth is made for bright colours and hemlines that hug upper thighs’

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It was a fantastic second night at the festival.


Dice Slam originated in the Netherlands when Bernhard Christianssen tried the format for the first time. There has only ever been one in the UK before and that was 6 years ago. (Before I hit the poetry scene or even started writing again.) No doubt it was brought to you by Apples & Snakes/ Bohdan Piasecki.

Photography unless otherwise stated © 2017 Waterstones/ Verve Team

Verve Poetry Festival Opening Night

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Verve Poetry Festival Opening Night

Verve Poetry Festival

I cannot express how excited I am that Birmingham finally has a poetry festival. It was the brainchild of a renown collective and blends spoken word and page poetry perfectly, as it should be. Poetry is such a small part of the universe that to segregate it further has always seemed a little absurd to me. Candy Royalle is a firm believer that ‘poet’ covers it.

http://vervepoetryfestival.com/about/

They don’t actually name themselves: Stuart Bartholomew (the God of Waterstones), Cynthia Miller, Emma Wright of the Emma Press & Bohdan Piasecki.

I have been counting down since November when I attended the V.I.P Launch and saw the programme the following day. Before the end of the week I had bought my festival pass. Reimbursed with additional travel expenses by Mr G. for Christmas, my mum bought me my workshop tickets for Christmas too and doesn’t it always taste better when it is FREE?

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I am kicking myself that I didn’t keep up with the announcements beyond social media, as I discovered late Wednesday night some of the programme had to be changed.

We have made some changes to our programme for Sunday 19th Feb at Verve. Most notably, Melissa Lee-Houghton has had to pull out of the festival for personal reasons. This has left a hole in the programme, as Melissa was due to run a workshop in the afternoon as well as reading at the evening headline event alongside Penned In The Margins stable-mate and Birmingham based Luke Kennard, and excellent Bloodaxe poet Shazea Quraishi.

It is a hole we have been working hard these last few days to plug, and plug it we have. Shazea Quraishi was thrilled to be asked to run a workshop in Melissa’s place from 1-3 PM. While Melissa was going to be getting her workshoppers to focus on the idea of writing to, Shazea will instead focus on writing as.  

For the evening headline event, we decided to ask to excellent Ruby Robinson to read for us in Melissa’s place, and we have to say we were thrilled to bits when she agreed. Ruby has had an glorious year on the back of having her first collection, Every Little Sound, published by Pavillion Poetry – being short-listed for the Felix Dennis Prize for best first collection and the T.S. Eliot Prize. Collette Bryce wrote, ‘Every Little Sound is an extraordinary first collection from a very gifted young poet.’ We are so excited to hear Ruby read and feel she has added something to our evening headline event that it didn’t possess before. It will be a wonderful reading.

© 2017 Verve Blog

I am really excited about meeting Ruby, who I discovered through INKSPILL 2016 (our online writing retreat right here on this blog).

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This morning I found out Robert Harper/ Bare Fiction is doing Poetry surgeries for FREE over the weekend. All 8 slots are fully booked now of course.

http://vervepoetryfestival.com/poetrysurgeries/

Speaking of surgeries, I was diagnosed with Sciatica years ago and rarely suffer. Yesterday as I arrived at work my back went and I was in agony all day. Driving, getting the train and then sitting for 4 hours has not helped. After a soak, a massage and a hot water bottle I only managed about 3 hours sleep. I am now dosed with pain killers and trying not to sit for too long! It is the only thing that will ruin this weekend for me. I saw from last night’s sneezy front row that nothing is keeping any of us away! I am packing a cushion and a mini hot water bottle for tonight and probably catching the bus so I won’t need to drive.


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Last night was as incredible as I knew it would be and it was fabulous to share it with an array of poetry friends. I love festivals for catching up with everyone and spending time amongst the throngs of poets. It was great to see that there was audience present as well as writers amongst the festival goers – a great treat for anyone and EVERYONE!

I arrived about an hour early as I know better than to trust city train services. This gave me a chance to chat to friends and relax before the night unfurled. It was lovely to see Daljit Nagra again and I really appreciated the chat we managed before he was whisked away to the Green Room! The Barista helped, having put our coffees on the same tray it would have been awkward for either one of us to refuse the other’s company. I was delighted, of course. I think Daljit has a genuine interest in other people and their poetry/lives. I took his Masterclass in Swindon last year at the Festival and am delighted that he will be Poet in Residence this year.

The opening night combined two events that happen regularly in Birmingham. The Poetry Parlour is hosted at Waterstones and features a poet and an Open Mic format and Hit the Ode, probably needs no introduction. One of the biggest poetry nights organised by Apples and Snakes and hosted by Bohdan Piasecki. This was a Thursday night guaranteed to ROAR!

Poetry Parlour

The Festival Stage was fully decorated, fairy lights, bunting, the famous green chairs and Roz Goddard was our glamorous host.

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© 2017 Emma Wright

Jane Commane interviewed Daljit with quality questions and he talked about several collections. After that he read and we were spellbound. Pin drop audience moments.

Then an interval followed by the open mic section. I had pre-booked a slot for one poem, I think that was a great idea to maximise the usual 8-9 poets to 12. Actually Roz made the decision to invite an extra 3 readings, treated to 15 poets/poems. A great range of voice. I performed ‘Your Gift’ from Fragile Houses.

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Then to complete the evening the winner of the Verve Poetry Competition performed an incredible set. I didn’t enter this competition and I am regretting not being organised enough to make the deadline because Saturday and Sunday will be filled by the anthology that was published from the entries, including an opportunity for work to be read. I know many/most/probably all the poets who are bound in this collection and it is on my must buy list. Which is so incredibly long that I have already marked out the books to buy later in the year. Waterstones have a eye-catching display right by the front door of all the books from festival poets.

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© 2017 Waterstones

Hit The Ode

As I have mentioned many times on this blog is an amazing night! Full of passion, spoken word and laughter. They always have 3 Headline acts, one local, one national and one international and this evening was no exception.

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© 2017 Waterstones

HEADLINERS:

From the Midlands, Soweto Kinch: the man who embodies the Brummie renaissance, a lyricist, playwright, poet, rapper and saxophone virtuoso in one tight package. http://www.soweto-kinch.com/

From outside the Midlands, Jemima Foxtrot: writer, theatre-maker, performer and musician, Jemima’s makes the distinction between song and poetry irrelevant. https://jemimafoxtrot.co.uk/

From beyond these Isles, Dizzylez: rapper, poet, percussionist, loop-pedal master, this French jack-of-all-trades creates layered narratives in front of your very eyes. http://www.dizzylez.com/

© 2017 Verve Programme

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I regret not signing up for an open mic slot in advance – I didn’t think it through, I was upstairs in the Parlour and the event finished in time for the next one to begin. I snuck out a little early to sign up but was already too late. I was a little hesitant at performing at both events and this prevented me from sending an email. Silly really. I had surprised myself earlier in the day by realising that I now know some of the lighter poems in my pamphlet off by heart and last week wrote an amusing poem about lists which I could have shared. In another way it is great to attend, watch, enjoy… although I did have to move to the back after the first half to grab a comfy green chair as my back was in spasm by this point.

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I thoroughly enjoyed HTO and was sad to leave before the end of Soweto Kinch’s set. I missed my train and couldn’t risk missing the last one as my car was parked in the suburbs and it would have been expensive to reach it. It has happened before, funnily enough at my first HTO I attended in 2014.

It was a great night, I was mesmerised by Dizzylez and his set, mostly in French. It reminded me of my time in Montreal, which is probably the last time I saw performance work in French for any length of time. I used to speak fluently, but not been to France now for over a decade and don’t use the language much (other than teaching) so I am no longer fluent.

Jemima Foxtrot was mesmerising. I really hope to catch her again. It was good to have music at HTO too – all three Headliners are musicians/musical.

It may be the excellent Waterstone’s Americano or adrenaline – or lack of sleep or a combination of all three, I feel like I am on top of the world. Welcome to my life during a poetry festival! WHOOOAAHHHOOOO

pitm-blog-bannerTonight I have the pleasure of Kim Moore, Mona Arshi & Katrina Naomi. Kim and Mona I met at Swindon last year and Katrina has always been performing in clashing events on the festival circuit. I look forward to discovering her.

Followed by the Dice Slam (Apples and Snakes) and the last bus home. Fingers crossed the service runs smoothly. I may have to find some space under a bookcase if not!

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The Quiet Compere – Wolverhampton Literature Festival

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I am excited whenever new festivals pop up, especially when they are not too far from home. Due to busy plans and the Verve Festival in a few weeks, I am not able to go to all the events I would like to this weekend. If I had a magic wand and teleporting superpowers I would also go to:wolves-lit AFTERNOON TEA – WITH WIN SAHA & BERT FLITCROFT, ARUN KAPUR + ABDA KHAN + ROMALYN ANTE + SABBI KAUR & MARTIN SHONE, BLACK COUNTRY VOICES – Dave Reeves & The Nailmakers’ Daughters, BONES PRESENTS……. A LIL SOMETHING DIFFERENT, ROY MCFARLANE and THE LIFE & TIMES OF THE TAT MAN by DAVID CALCUTT and possibly more.

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Tonight was brilliant, it was great to be part of an event on the opening day of the festival (27-29th). The Quiet Compere – conceived and hosted by Sarah Dixon.

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with Sarah L Dixon, Leanne Bridgewater, Jess May Davies, Kathy Gee, Nina Lewis, Holly Magill, Tom McColl, Gerry Potter, Steve Pottinger, Polly Stretton & Heather Wastie

It was such an enjoyable night. The room in the gallery was very impressive. I really want to go back to the Gallery to just take a look at all the work on display. We had to walk through the Art and Writing space, I took a quick look at the exhibition during the interval.

It was great that an audience showed up and there weren’t too many empty chairs. During the first half the mics were set up quite a distance from the audience, this was changed by request during the interval. I just presumed cable length shackled us to the back of the room. It has to be the best backdrop ever though!

It was such a fantastic night and lovely to hear comments about my set, which went down well… despite last minute nerves of ‘I have chosen all the wrong poems!’. The 10 minutes flew by and I really enjoyed performing. I was very nervous before, but think I covered those nerves well once I had the mic in front of me.

I really appreciate having the opportunity to perform in the Quiet Compere again, we did one in Worcester in 2015. https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2015/08/01/quiet-compere-tour-2015-stop-6-worcester/


All photography © 2017 Sarah Dixon

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Sarah Dixon, Poet, Quiet Compere, Amazing Lady! I had the privilege of reading the workings of her new pamphlet that she shared poems from this evening. It was the first time I had heard her read them though, always adds to the power.

qc-polly-robinson Polly Stretton kicked off the evening (Sarah always goes first, knowing how we all hate that opening slot) the first of ten poets – sharing fairy poetry (she has many) and once again I had the inside track on part of her set as she tested it out at 42 this week. She opened her set with a poem about Evelyn Glennie and a tambourine. Fine set.

Next came Holly Magill. qc-holly-m I love Holly’s poems (and wardrobe). It was a great set and good to hear the audience reaction from those who had not heard her before and didn’t know what to expect. As always the serious mixed with a good measure of fun.

Then it was my turn Nina Lewis.qc

I thought long and hard about which poems to read. For a week I carried my notebook and pamphlet in my work bag. I had such a shocking week at work that both stayed in my bag as I didn’t have a moment to ponder through them.

Then I had my Burns set to be ready for the 25th. Fortunately I chiselled out some time on Friday to get myself ready. We were performing in the Art Gallery so I wanted to use some of my artefact/art inspired poetry. There was also a table filled with goodies (all of our books and wares) so performing from Fragile Houses also seemed like a good idea.

I shared the runner up poem from Worcester Porcelain Museum Competition ‘The Unfading Cornflower’, then my poem for Marina Abramovic ‘Unfolding’, then one of the Arthur Rackham inspired poems ‘Buckled Air’ before moving onto the pamphlet and ‘Fabricious Avenue’ (my only 52 poem on colour), Fortori and Your Gift to finish the set with a poem about my parents.

qc-leanne-bridgewater Next came Leanne Bridgewater who threw fruit into the mix (literally)! I was looking forward to watching Leanne’s set as it has been a long while since I have seen her performing her own work. She educated us all about Veganuary. Veganuary aims to reduce the suffering of animals by inspiring and supporting people across the globe to go vegan for the month of January. She handed out fruit in support of this gesture. Then she read from her book, Confessions of a Cyclist, which has such playful content inside.

To complete the five in the first half was Tom McColl.

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Tom stepped in to fill Bobby Parker’s spot. Tom is based in London and was one of the new to me poets. A good mix of serious and amusing. I really enjoyed the humorous material included in his set.

During the interval I was able to catch up with people and whizz around the gallery downstairs. I was really looking forward to the second half.

Which after more from Sarah was started by Heather Wastie.

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Now, I have always loved watching Heather, for the past year she has been busy working on Idle Women and also let Mouth & Music go after facilitating the Open Mic night for many years, so with the exception of a performance here and there it has been ages since I have had the pleasure of watching her on stage. I thoroughly enjoyed the set and so did everyone else.

Then Gerry Potter, who was the other new to me poet.

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Gerry is from Liverpool originally and is a lively spoken word performer. His material took me back to my birthday trip to Liverpool last summer and I started scribbling all sorts of things in my notebook, whilst watching his set (I can write without looking at the page) and my brain can just about listen and write if I don’t focus on the writing. I have not re-read these notes but if they become poems ever, they were inspired by Gerry’s set which encapsulated life, childhood and the city.

Jess Davies followed.

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Like Heather, Jess is another poet who hosted an open mic event, so although I saw a lot of her last year I had not heard her poems for a long while. I was delighted to hear new poetry and witness a brilliant performance. I really enjoyed her set.

Kathy Gee was next.

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She treated us to poems from her Book of Bones and some from The Suite for the Fallen Soldier, a choral project Phil Mountford was commissioned to create. Kathy wrote the narrative suite. I love Kathy’s poetry too, thought provoking and highly crafted. Words you muse over long after the final line. She bravely risked a newer, political poem too. It was a great set.

The Suite for the Fallen Soldier

http://suiteforthefallensoldier.com/

And finally to complete the great night of poetry we heard from Steve Pottinger.

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Again I have seen Steve perform recently but it has been a long while since I saw him headline at Mouth & Music. It is always great to hear a longer set from performers like Steve. Like listening to a whole album rather than enjoying a few tracks. I thoroughly enjoyed the set and he did a grand job closing the night. Like Kathy, he bravely performed a very freshly penned poem too, less than a day old.

It was a fantastic evening, I am still buzzing from the atmosphere now. It was great to meet new people and see old friends and to experience the incredible Wolverhampton Art Gallery. exterior_wolverhampton-art-gallery1536ls

© 2016 Artfund.org Artfund

Also incredibly grateful to have shared the journey with Kathy Gee, who saved me from facing the prospect of driving to the city. We spent the first part of the evening enjoying the wonderful interior of the Posada. An incredible Real Ale pub steps away from the gallery. Well worth a visit the_posada_wolverhampton_4327682633 © 2010 Wikimedia Commons

wolverhampton-posada-publicbar1 especially if you like Heritage pubs or real ale!

Congratulations Sarah Dixon on another fine QC Event, I hope you enjoy the rest of the festival and all the city has to offer.

RELATED LINKS:

http://www.wolvesliteraturefestival.co.uk/the-quiet-compere/4593202795

http://www.wolvesliteraturefestival.co.uk/

December Review of the Month

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Everything starts to wind down in my writing world during December, which is lucky as everything else winds up to Christmas and I think I would pop if something didn’t give.

Week 1: (which was only 4 days)

I put in a bid to review an anthology which a few poetry friends appear in, it looks like a great quality publication and I am gutted I knew nothing of the submission for it. I do not think my application was successful as they had the launch in December, but I tried.

I also went to Permission to Speak, Rob Francis’s night in Stourbridge at the Scary Canary. Rob booked Ash Dickinson as the headline act, it has been over a year since I’ve seen him perform.1 Ash DickinsonPerhaps longer. Last time was Digbeth, Birmingham. I was also doubly excited because he has a new book out and I was able to grab a copy – which I then saved to be my Christmas read, but also borrowed 3 Christmassy novels from the library and with actually celebrating festivities and catching up with family and friends, I ran out of time to read it. It has become my New Year book instead… now my January book. It is my next read and has overtaken a whole shelf of poetry still on my must read radar.

Thanking Jonathan Davidson for teaching me to support poetry by buying books (back in Sept. 2013), I would love time to read them all. One day I will have my landing book nook and an hour a day to indulge.

It was an exceptional night, (despite the mic stand completely playing me up). Part of my set was ‘Fragile Houses’ which is a serious book and it made Ash feel comfortable to step away to his more serious work too. Which went down a storm. So I was glad that my set persuaded him to mix his up a bit. Very brave.

What I did manage to do was re-read his previous collection – (bought last time I saw him in Digbeth), I love having the poet’s voice in mind as I read their words. I had forgotten how stonkingly good ‘slinky espadrilles’ was. It was a delight to hear some poems from this, his first collection at PTS.

adameve It was actually 2014 when I last saw Ash perform. How time flies when you’re writing poems. The photos I took of Ash are trapped on an old phone, so you can make do with a 2014 lazy Sunday version of me instead.

If you fancy ordering a copy of Slinky Espadrilles (2012), which remains one of the top selling titles, you can follow the links below. Or maybe you would rather treat yourself to the latest collection Strange Keys (2016) … both published by Burning Eye books.

http://burningeye.bigcartel.com/product/slinky-espadrilles-by-ash-dickinson

http://burningeye.bigcartel.com/product/strange-keys

A great night at ScaryCanary and I also picked up a copy of Rob’s new pamphlet ‘Orpheus’ published by Lapwing. It was his first reading from it. orpheus-1st-reading

I have since watched him perform from it at SpeakEasy and he has a few more dates in the Midlands, up North  and soon down South too.

28th Jan – Wolverhampton Literature Festival @ Wolverhampton Art Gallery
16th Feb – Stanza @ The Exchange, North Shields
25th Feb – The Black Light Engine Room, Middlesbrough

More dates may be added soon in Folkestone, Leeds and London

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Rob is also donating all of his profits for this book to charity. £25 was raised by initial sales for the village School feeding scheme in Namibia. I am not entirely sure if this campaign has now closed as the crowdfunding page has finished. Know that if you buy a copy, Rob has donated profits so far to this cause.

Ordering Orpheus – please contact R. M Francis https://www.facebook.com/RMFrancisPoet/

I also returned Heather’s projector which I had used for the Book Party event to show my Fragile Houses Poetry Films. Over Christmas I discovered my mum had been given a projector through a contact in education (they were upgrading), after it served no use to my mum she gifted it forwards – not releasing her poetry daughter was about to embark on Poetry Films… so if any of you know of anyone getting rid of a working projector at any point I would be very interested. My car has also gone over the clock (100,000) with all these poetry gigs, so if anyone has a decent 2nd or 3rd hand car to sell also let me know!

My friend Caution Poet had a couple of events at the Anchor Gallery, Birmingham where he was generously selling artwork and giving away copies of his latest collection of poems. On the same night there were Christmas Spoken Word events at The Ort. But my relatives were up from London and it was my Gran’s birthday so I missed all the poetry and went to celebrate with them instead.

I was asked to perform at the Mistletoe Festival in Tenbury Wells. In the end Myfanwy and Peter Sutton made it and I am in conversation about 2017.

I had my winter solstice poem ‘Burn All the Clocks’ accepted by Three Drops From a Cauldron at the end of November, but don’t think I mentioned it on the last review. It is going to be published in the Midwinter Anthology.

Week 2:

I continued to make Poetry Films and missed Hatstand – I have missed all the events hosted this year under this new night. I hope they continue in 2017 and that I may make them. Monday night is a tricky one with teaching the next day.

I worked on the Writing West Midlands December session, prep and planning. I missed Gary Longden’s Poetry Alight and Roz Goddard’s Stanza Christmas Party to go to Stirchley Speaks, which was a great night.

I also worked on two projects which at this time were in initial planning stages. The one has been signed, sealed and delivered and is already forging new developments into 2017. The other is ready to start in February, on a date that I have been asked to perform as part of a Peace Day at Coventry Cathedral. Both events are geographically too far apart to manage in the same day. I hope to get involved with Antony Owen’s next event in the summer. In the meantime I am writing poems to be read on the day.

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December sees the return of SpeakEasy at the beautiful Cafe Bliss and, to rid you of your Winter blues, we’re bringing along with us the wonderful Nina Lewis!

Nina has had poetry published in many publications over the years and has recently celebrated her first solo publication, Fragile Houses, published by V. Press. A wonderful poet with a back catalogue of hard-hitting and beautifully crafted verses, Nina Lewis is definitely an act worth seeing.

I headlined SpeakEasy in Worcester. It was a great night – there are some photos I need to track down. My non-poetry friends came to support me and Café Bliss was packed. It was a great night although one of the most nervous I have been (home crowd and all that) and there were about 8 close poetry friends (and regulars at this event) who couldn’t make it so I was supressing the paranoid part of myself for most of the evening. I did manage to enjoy the open mic spots and the atmosphere was brilliant.

My set went well and I sold quite a few copies of Fragile Houses. I even performed one of the poems I didn’t envisage ever being able to perform in public. That may be the only time I do. So for all the people who were there that was a first and last.

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As with all things the 8th December when I headlined clashed with other events, The Grizzly Pear where I missed Bohdan Piasecki and Leon Priestnall and also the Nine Arches Press Christmas Party.

On Friday I had one of the most exciting meetings of the year and some delicious cake! I missed Caution Poet’s second event and Clive Osman Performing from his new book ‘Happy’ at the P Café as I had a lot of writing work to submit and a WWM to prepare.

On Saturday we celebrated the end of term with a workshop on Fiction and a slightly Christmassy session for WWM. To prove how talented the writers are in my group there was an entire page of the plan I discarded as they were already there. Great when young writers don’t need all the input. They, like me, are passionate about learning the craft.

Week 3:

My final week of real world work and I booked workshops for the Verve Poetry Festival (Feb.) with Kim Moore and Sarah Howe, I met both these talented poets this year and cannot wait for this treat – which was a Christmas present from my Mum – even better when these experiences are free! I missed the booking at Swindon on Kim’s workshop due to getting a little lost finding the new venue. So I am doubly looking forward to the magic.

I helped organise accommodation for the Quiet Compere (January) Wolverhampton Literature Festival.  I started working on a collaborative project which will see 3 new poems written (and submitted) in as many weeks. I worked on general submissions, getting the last bit of writing done before the Christmas break.

I had also been asked (in October) to produce a writing prompt for Squiffy Gnu (an online writing/ poetry group). The deadline was the 14th and although it had been on my radar for a while I couldn’t start to work on it until after I had headlined SpeakEasy.

I am really proud of myself for coming up with an original idea and not copying someone else’s groundwork. I have yet to actually attempt the writing myself and have only read a few of the outcome poems, but again I plan to carve some time out to do this next month. It was fun to be a guest poet and an honour to be the last one of the year. Thanks to Chris Hemmingway for this opportunity.

I missed Luke Wright and Jasmine Gardosi headline at Howl, again next year HOWL is already in the diary for February, it has been a shame to miss this events as it is always a great night. Once again I will blame work and distance.

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There was a Christmas Party for the Walsall Arboretum poets which I couldn’t attend originally because of work. However, that day work was cancelled and I had hoped to make it after all. I was buried under a self created submission mountain though and it was in the middle of the day. I heard they had a good time.

Instead, the following day, I treated myself to the Poet Christmas Party (like a works do but better), just three of us meeting up for lunch and pretending it was our annual do really! I made the mistake of drinking a glass of wine as I wasn’t driving, but I had forgotten that I skipped breakfast and hadn’t yet lined my stomach. So I guess I was entertaining.

I missed Attila The Stockbroker and Caution Poet Man Down on Friday night as it was Stanza and I had missed the previous two months and really wanted to go.

It was a great and Christmassy evening.

Week 4:

Christmas and my hibernation from my poetry skin.

In the Greenwood Shade – my poem about the Frog Prince (initially started at a workshop with Angela France) was published by Three Drops From a Cauldron in the December Issue.

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https://threedropspoetry.co.uk/2016/12/23/three-drops-from-a-cauldron-issue-ten/

Fragile Houses The Book Launch

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On October 3rd Fragile Houses, my debut poetry pamphlet was launched at Waterstones Birmingham.

It was a fantastic night and I felt like ‘Christmas Eve’, the next morning it felt like a dream. The morning after felt whimsical and I had to pinch myself to tell that I was awake. This is how a great book launch should feel.

I cannot believe I didn’t blog it straight away, that I didn’t show you all how I felt. That you have had to wait two months for this post.

There was a lot to do before the event and next year I will be blogging about this side of things as I found, through countless hours of research a gap on the practicalities of organising launch events.

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I got to Birmingham with a travel bag of books. I was a bag of nerves, but fortunately had Maggie Doyle and Spoz with me, taking my mind off it.

I wish I had taken a photo of the room and another of the audience. When I stepped into the space, my breath was taken away. We had four comfy, green chairs ready for us at the front (Hays Festival style staging) and more chairs had to be put out for the audience, always a good sign. There were over 25 people there and I was delighted that family and friends had also come to support me. There were three audience members who had seen the advertising and turned up for a free night of poetry and one of them kindly bought my book. So I was able to tick off the unwritten checklist of selling the book to a stranger on the evening of it launching. Happy dance.

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I had asked for Roy McFarlane, Antony Owen and Claire Walker to come and read at the event. Claire started proceedings with a lovely set. I have always been a fan of her poetry (and Roy’s and Antony’s) – one of the many reasons I asked if they would read at the launch.

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My publisher, Sarah Leavesley was also there and made a short and delightful speech that I had to speak after (and she nearly made me cry). I read a selection of poems from the pamphlet, signed and sold lots of books and we all celebrated with wine and cake.

It was an incredible night. It still feels like a dream.

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Signing my first book. The books sold on the launch evening were all numbered as well.


 

Official Launch Photographs were kindly taken by Bernard Davis.

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Here is my post-launch social media message;

A very quick, adrenalin filled THANK YOU to everybody who came to celebrate the launch tonight. Family, friends, poets & general public. Couldn’t have asked for a better event. Room was perfect. Fell in love with that space as soon as I saw the backs of the chairs. Slightly awkward explaining to the general public, who had rushed in that the first half hour was mingle time. Poets never get to chat (learnt that if it is your launch you don’t get to chat either) but think I managed to hug and welcome everyone. Sold more books than no. of people in attendance, thanks for the generosity.

Huge, huge thanks to Claire Walker, Roy McFarlane and Antony R Owen who made me swell with heartfelt sets and lots of appreciated sign language from the green chairs. How ‘Hay’ was that?

Thanks to V. Press for publishing Fragile Houses & Sarah Leavesley for her generous words and all the hard work. I managed not to cry the poems, but after that speech it was hard to do the next intro.

Thanks to Maggie Doyle who had my camera and captured that magic writer- editor/ publisher moment, gave me a lift and has been there from almost the very beginning. Thanks to Giovanni Spoz Esposito for the extra lift relay, for supporting the launch and for the delivery of my words elsewhere. Hope they serve well.

Thanks to John who enabled me to tick ‘sell your book to a stranger’. Thanks to everyone. Next stop, headlining Stirchley Speaks tomorrow, along with the wonderful Carl Sealeaf, P Cafe 7.30pm. Signed pamphlets will be available, minus the free muffins & wine.

Also thank you to Waterstones Birmingham and Bernard Davis who stepped in to catch everything through his camera lens. I cannot wait to see the shots!

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As you can see from this photo – the pamphlet costs £5.50 and makes Christmas shopping REALLY easy.

V.Press have currently got Christmas bundles on SALE. Which means for just £7.50 you can be the owner or giver of two pamphlets.

Festive Offer 3: The way home

2 illustrated poetry pamphlets: David Calcutt’s The Old Man in the House of Bone and Nina Lewis’ Fragile Houses for just £7.50 (including P&P in the UK only)

Review of the Month – November (let’s get one blogged in time) UPDATED

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UPDATED

I cannot believe it is the end of November already. I have marked it with a great night in Worcester at an ‘Arthur Rackham’ themed 42. Great to see some new faces too.

This month has been abundant with opportunities and I am witnessing the domino effect. There is a lot to review and I am busy with end of month submissions, so this post has recently been updated and completed.

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REVIEW OF NOVEMBER

Week 1

I finally managed to get back over to Permission to Speak, where David Calcutt was headlining with his V. Press Pamphlet ‘The Old Man in the House of Bone’. d-cal-old-man

It was a great night and I performed some new work written from An Atomic Sun Workshop facilitated by Antony Owen that I attended earlier this year. Writing about Hiroshima takes time and finding places where it is comfortable enough to know you can perform it, is the next challenge. They worked. People were reminded.

Antony Owen and myself (along with many other writers) have work in a Shabda Press anthology. Accepted a while ago, contracts signed in Spring, we are happily approaching proof and publication and it should be out February time. There are big issues that we must not shy away from, but it can be a lonely place, it is great to meet like-minded writers. I have to say that Antony writes from the heart and everything he writes matters socially, whereas my political poems come and go.

Writing about such horrific histories can be hard without support of those around you.

I did lots of writing this week and with working, found I was too exhausted after October to manage evening events on top. I missed them. Forgave myself and spent time at the desk.

I had my writing group, which over the past fortnight has taken time preparing. I spent hours researching for topical writing tasks for the Writing West Midlands group and structuring the session and resources, they all seemed to enjoy it and we had some new members too. Even treated them to some time in the book booth windows to write outside of the space. My group discovered an interesting Jukebox on display and created all sorts of ideas about what it was really.

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Mr G. and I went to another big gig.

 

Week 2

I completed an interesting challenge set by Helen Calcutt and was rewarded with two new poems, one that stands out well, was performed at SpeakEasy and will be published.

I attended my first Birmingham Stanza at Waterstones, run by Roz Goddard. Jane Commane was the invited guest talking about publishing. It was an enjoyable evening and I was able to take another recently penned poem for some editing support. In fact I spent most of my week at Waterstones.

I missed HOWL as I was working and already had 48 hours with double events. Let me state – I am too old for double event nights!

I went to SpeakEasy in Worcester to see Ben Parker Feature and buy his new book. bp-seIt was a great night of poetry, thoroughly enjoyed and lovely to see Ben again. I missed the last chance to see him as Mr G and I were away when he organised his poetry event at the Swan Theatre, where he is poet in residence. I first met Ben at the end of his poetry residency at Royal Worcester Porcelain Museum at his Worcester LitFest event two years ago.

I cannot wait to read his new collection ‘The Amazing Lost Man’, which was released November 1st.

In this startling and energetic first collection, Ben Parker explores real and imagined territories and reports back in poems that are both darkly funny and vividly descriptive. Combing concision with a surreal lyricism, the worlds of The Amazing Lost Man are at once strange and familiar, while the central sequence of ‘Insomnia Postcards’ is a joyous clash of the quotidian and the bizarre. These poems have a subtle music, and a confident voice that draws the reader in. (cover)

cover_parker_1024x1024 I know the rule is never judge a book by the cover and I tend not to. Fortunately there is no rule about falling in love with a cover and I have. It is much brighter in reality – buy one and see. https://store.eyewearpublishing.com/products/the-amazing-lost-man

More from Ben here http://www.benparkerpoetry.co.uk/about

My recent poetry book buys have been piling up as I have spent the past few months invested in a crime novel with a bitterly disappointing ending (I still do not know who the murderer was)! Back to poetry for a while.

It is also good to hear when your poetry inspires others;

Big thank you to Suz Winspear, Nina Lewis and Lauren Hill. Those poems of heartbreak inspired me to write my first new prose in five months, while sat in the audience!

Afterwards I rushed out to the sticks to celebrate a friend’s birthday, made it in time for cake and just before the bar closed for drinks.

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The following night I went to the Poetry Business – Poet Laureate Choice Readings at Waterstones Birmingham. The Poetry Business publish under smith/doorstop imprint.

“One of the most vital and vitalising literature organisations in the country”
Andrew Motion
The Laureate’s choice 2016, picked by (of course) Carol Ann Duffy.
The four winning pamphlets are:
Geraldine Clarkson’s ‘Dora Incites the Sea-Scribbler to Lament’
Zeina Hashem Beck’s ‘There Was and How Much There Was’
Mark Pajak’s ‘Spitting Distance’
Tom Sastry’s ‘Complicity’
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I am lucky enough to know Tom through Jo Bell’s 52 project (2014) and have met Geraldine a few times since this new life started in 2013, although this was the first time we had properly met for some time. Nice to be remembered though.
It was wonderful to meet Mark and always good to expand the world of known poets, he was smashing to talk to and I will remember his early morning running and the bear. When in the states (Yosemite), 2015 I had a running mantra ‘Let me see a bear, let me be at a point of safety’… I did see a bear and her cub, I was on one of many transport buses at the time (thank goodness) – as up close and personal as I wanted to get!
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Zeina’s video performance from Dubai kicked off the evening, impressive, soul-driven poetry and from there we enjoyed a live set from the PB poets. It was a pleasant evening and they have since celebrated again in Bristol and I have only heard good things about that event too.
There is currently a special offer – just in time for Christmas – you can buy all 4 pamphlets for just £20.00
‘Geraldine Clarkson’s poems are musical, often playful incantations that delight in the power of words. Formally inventive and vivid with natural imagery.’ – Carol Ann Duffy
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Zeina Hashem Beck’s ‘There Was and How Much There Was’
‘Whether drawing on myth or fairytale, or writing directly from women’s experience, these are powerful poems by a new writer with a remarkable gift for storytelling.’  – Carol Ann Duffy 
‘Mark Pajak’s skilful poems keep themselves open, especially to childhood and adolescent experience.  Even so, they are far from frail – their insight and imaginative verve make them robust as well as eloquent.’ – Carol Ann Duffy 
pb4© 2016  Robert Harper
‘Tom Sastry navigates the mysterious everyday in this honest and often funny collection, making friendships and love affairs new and strange.’ – Carol Ann Duffy
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Mark also won the Bridport Prize this year with ‘Spitting Distance’.
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After this event I rushed to the other side of Birmingham to perform from Fragile Houses, my own pamphlet at Spoken Word at the Ort. It was a fabulous night, run by Debbie Aldous. It always feels like coming home.

I am too old for consecutive nights of double bookings though.

The next evening I was back in Waterstones (told you I need a bed there) for a wonderful evening with Indigo Dreams poets, also doing a whistle stop reading tour.

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It was a fabulous evening and a pleasure to meet Kate, Mab and Bethany W Pope, all of whom I knew of but hadn’t met and the lovely Bethany Rivers, who I met at a Writers Network event hosted by WWM back in 2013 and know from poeting in Shropshire, where she does a lot of work. I can highly recommend all their pamphlets. I am currently reading ‘Off the Wall’ By Bethany Rivers.

This evening was delightful, a magical experience and a thoroughly enjoyable Q & A after the readings. Powerful poets doing what they do best.

I shared the evening with Claire Walker and Holly Magill and it was special.

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I also received news that I had won 2nd place in the Museum of Royal Worcester Poetry Challenge and I had to keep this a secret, even the judges didn’t know as it truly was judged anonymously by the panel. It was so hard not telling anyone and slightly awkward as I was going to see Claire Walker headline at Poetry Café Refreshed in Cheltenham on the same night as the awards/reading. This wasn’t quite as hard as keeping my publishing opportunity quiet, but I just wanted to celebrate the success openly!

 

Week 3

I made some submissions, finally! And enjoyed Licensed to Rhyme, where Emma Purshouse was headlining.  She has just won a book award too.

I Once Knew a Poem who Wore a Hat Emma Purshouse and Catherine Pascall Moore
Lots of wonderful imaginative and outrageous poems in this collection which is full of the charms and idiosyncrasies of childhood.  It’s easy to see how children could love these breezy poems and become attached to them.  One could easily imagine them being learnt by heart and repeated in playgrounds.  The illustrations by Catherine Pascall Moore are quirky and appropriate.  The hints about, for example, the best way to learn a poem or how to speak a poem aloud, are unusual in a book of this sort and never patronising. 

 

A first was VIP invite to the Verve Poetry Festival Launch – I will be telling you lots more about the festival throughout the coming months. verve12 Luke Kennard

I love watching Luke perform, dynamic doesn’t cover it – you may notice a group of us chatting – we are not talking through his set – here he is preparing to dive in!

The event was everything I hoped my first VIP experience would be and along with brilliant performances from Luke and Amerah Saleh. verve11

I spent the evening eating divine V cakes and mingling with many people, also had the pleasure of meeting some people for the first time.

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The tickets were live within 24 hours and I have already bought my festival pass for February. I also plan on doing as many workshops as I can and all of this has happened just in time –  for Christmas I have asked for Verve to be gifted back to me… so although with transport etc. I will be running up a bill, the tab is already paid for. Result. verve5

Find out all about the festival and buy tickets here http://vervepoetryfestival.com/

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The night after this was the Poetry Challenge event at the Museum – Royal Worcester Porcelain Museum. Which was a lovely event facilitated by Suz Winspear (Poet in Residence) and the Museum.

cup Prize winning treats – unexpected and beautiful.

It was an absolute joy to surprise all the judges who had chosen the winning poems without knowing who wrote them. I was delighted to be placed and loved the fact the winner and my fellow runner up, Shelagh Wain (from Burton-on-Trent), were poets I did not know.

Georgina Byrne (first place – Winner) had never written a poem before. Here is the article Worcester News

You can read Georgina Byrne’s poem here http://www.museumofroyalworcester.org/winner-of-the-poetry-challenge/

paper-1100254_1280 The event was a lovely, relaxing evening of poetry and it was great to have the judges perform alongside the poetry challenge winners. The museum was also open to have a browse around, a treasure trove of porcelain. I love it there, it gives me the same feeling libraries do. (Imagine – chocolate cake…)

The next night was the Poetry Parlour at Waterstones, I had planned to go but after work and the busy month so far – I missed it. Roy McFarlane was the Poetry Parlour this month, once again I have heard positive reviews about this evening from the open mic-ers.

I spent time writing a current piece that cannot yet be disclosed. Looked over a manuscript for someone and finally, on Sunday went to perform at Open Poetry Walsall Arboretum. Which was a great way to finish a ram-packed week! Relaxing to poetry and afterwards having a quick drink in a pub with poets.

 

Week 4

Missed Shrewsbury Literature Festival completely having only found out about it a few weeks ago. I made it back to Poetry Bites which I have not been able to go to for a long time.

Prepped for The Book Party. Post-book launch open mic event where I showed 4 exclusive poetry films and one that has already been shared publically, from Fragile Houses. It was an intimate affair and a great night. Sadly a lot of people couldn’t make it in the end, but it was a perfect evening of poetry and friends. We all enjoyed each other’s poems and I am (as always) delighted when my poetry circles meet for the first time. Glad I have given some more people Lesley Ingram and John Mills and some more Worcestershire poets are now known to them.

a-fh I was touched by everyone supporting and participating in this evening of poetry, had a gorgeous bouquet (thanks Anne Milton), a poem written about Fragile Houses (thanks Charley Barnes) and good friends who travelled great distances to be there.

Suz Winspear & Mogs performing – photography Charley Barnes

The next night I had to miss Stanza (for the 2nd month running) as I was at  a Book Launch in Birmingham. For ‘Womanly Words’ an anthology of poetry (20 female poets) produced by Shakti Women.

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It was an incredibly absorbing evening – I missed a lot of readings whilst driving around in circles trying to park. A relaxed affair around a huge conference table laden with scrabble, sweets, cakes, champagne and soulful women. It was great that a people came just to listen and that so many of the 20 poets in the anthology were able to make the event. It was lovely reconnecting with everyone.

I was unable to participate throughout the year as much as I would have liked due to working on editing Fragile Houses. There are plans afoot already for 2017 though. It was great meeting some of my fellow anthology poets and just spending time chatting with like-minded activists.

I am a little in love with this book. Well done to Zara Walker for her impressive design work on this gem.

http://www.shaktiwomen.co.uk/

Siobhan and Cheryl even sent us away with goodie bags!

After this event, I was asked to do Radio (for the 2nd time this year), I would have loved to have read my poem on air, but after the excitement of this week’s events and my need to be at home and with Mr.G, added to the fact that it wasn’t local and everybody has started Christmas shopping on Saturdays, I sadly passed up this opportunity. I am kicking myself now a bit.

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I spent the weekend at home with Mr G and fitted in a little poetry writing and film making time.

I also received news of 2 exciting opportunities for 2017, that for now I have to keep quiet. (There is a pattern emerging here!)

And I have finished off the month at 42 with an inspiring evening of writing on the theme of ‘Arthur Rackham’s Brain’. Many of us had completed enjoyable research into the works of this artist. As a child I experienced his Wind in the Willows and my poems were written whilst considering his artwork ‘Mischief’, illustrations for ‘The Old Lady in the Wood’ and ‘Undine’. I was pleased with the resulting poems and had some positive feedback on them. A fabulous event to complete the month – literally – on the 30th!

 

 

 

 

September Review (better late than never)

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So the Christmas adverts haven’t gone unnoticed and I realise we are fast approaching the end of November, (I realise this as I haven’t started seasonal shopping yet)! It has been a really busy Autumn, which is great as this is the life I wanted… it does mean that my blogging time has diminished.

I have some great ideas how to utilise this blog in 2017 that will fit into the ever-increasingly busier patterns I now exist in. I will save the big reveal for the New Year whilst I focus on the backlog!


REVIEW OF SEPTEMBER

September was the most exciting month of 2016 so far, my debut pamphlet ‘Fragile Houses’ made it out of editorial and to the printers and I was able to get my teeth into something I do well, organising the Book Launch event and promoting.

fragile-houses-best I was always a little unsure how soon to the end of the process the book had to be before the promoting could begin. Hard work after keeping it a secret for so long. Frustrating though the length of time it all took was, I am glad we launched in October because it is close enough to still being NEW at Christmas! So if, like me, you haven’t started shopping yet…

The rest of September wasn’t too bad either.

Week 1

I finally managed to get back over to Permission to Speak, where Walsall Poetry Society had the headline slot. A collective of poets with a great range of work. Richard Archer – a poet from Walsall helped set this up. Richard has written 3 books of poetry and has performed his work on TV and radio. He describes his poems as a sideways look at life as he tries to dissect the world around him, failing or succeeding in equal measure.

Richard was joined by founding member Bryan Sydney Griffin a.k.a “LaGrif”, Marrianne Burgess, Paul Elwell, Ian Ward and Vicki MacWinyers.

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I was also delighted to see Steve Harrison there, our paths haven’t crossed in a while. Busy poets that we are, with a few Counties of separation. It was a good evening and it felt like coming home. Rob Francis is always so welcoming and it is a great venue to perform in with one of my favourite stages (because it is made out of old school desks) and features in one of my poems. It was lovely to share the evening with Claire Walker and Ian Glass.

I missed the Fringe Festival in Digbeth, as I was out celebrating my birthday (yes! It was in August), I like to party! It was at the expense of missing several submission deadlines this month though. I try to be kind to myself when that happens but the inner voice is screaming ‘GET ORGANISED GIRL!’

 

Week 2

I spent my time organising new term workshops for my Writing West Midlands group and sifting my way through the admin mountain.

I went to Waterstones to watch fellow V. Press poets David Calcutt, Kathy Gee and Claire Walker who have spent months planning ‘From Birth to Bone’, a scripted reading combining poems from all of their collections. I was a little gutted that Fragile Houses wasn’t out in time to participate, I have had conversations about collaboration for sometime. Still I have a few ideas to bounce around in 2017.

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It was a fabulous night and their work blended well. I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was a jolly good performance. The other thing I loved was the programme. Listed on it were all the poems and the relevant pages from their books.

What I did manage to do was speak to Stuart, as an Area manager and Poet himself he is fully behind events in Waterstones. I have over the year attended several, but from this point onwards the book shop becomes my second home! I confirmed my book launch was to take place in Waterstones ! Oh, my wake me up – I am dreaming!

I went to SpeakEasy in Worcester where the featured artists was a three piece, ‘Threezacrowd‘ – Michael Thomas on words and Campbell and Jan Perry on music. SpeakEasy tends to be poetry so it was different to have some music and singing. Mike Alma and Pip Barlow brought us guitar and voice the month before.

mike-and-pip-barlow-mary-davis Photograph – Mary Davis

The photo is from the August SpeakEasy, where I read some of the canal poems (still in draft form) from our poetry trip. I was wearing my Tiller Girl badge and Alan Durham wore his pirate badge.

speakeasy Photograph – Mary Davis

I spent the rest of the week planning and promoting my Book Launch, working for Writing West Midlands, wrote endorsements for ‘Birth to Bone’ and my pamphlets became real and reached the editor. I still cannot believe I waited to pick them up for several days as our schedules weren’t matching.

They were published in time for the London Book Fair, which was exciting.

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Week 3

Following some summer preparation, I started organising INKSPILL – our online writing retreat. Sending emails and making contact with writers was fun and in the process have pretty much organised next year’s Guest Writers too.

It was also the first ‘Licensed to Rhyme’ – my most local poetry night! Finally my hometown can offer something and what a something it is. Maggie Doyle and Fergus McGonigal ran SpeakEasy for a couple of years and both took retirement from it earlier in 2016. Maggie and Fergus worked hard finding the perfect venue and pricing and all the millions of behind the scenes work, we never really consider.

licensed-to-rhyme The Advertiser

Spoz co-hosts the event with Maggie Doyle once a month. This first evening was a great success and because the venue is an Arts Centre (Artrix) we have professional sound and sound engineers to boot. We walked on to ‘James Bond theme music’ and the atmosphere was electric. Which all helps performers to perform well. I had a 10 minute Guest Spot and Maggie mentioned my pamphlet was to launch in a few weeks too.

Even more exciting was finally meeting Dreadlock Alien, a man people have constantly spoken about since I hit the circuit in 2014. I knew some of his poems and have seen him perform online but to meet him was thrilling and it was lovely to see a lot of the Birmingham crowd over here too.

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I also worked on (for hours) a professional writing website where people can find me, book me etc. A space I can keep for promo and work. And guess what? I found the only web space that doesn’t link to SEO on Google searches etc. which means unless I send the direct link – you cannot find me. I am limited by free webpages at the moment and many of these need you to install all sorts. I am tempted to use WordPress and as I bought ‘A Writers Fountain’, 16 years ago, I know I can do it again, when money flows a little better.

I still haven’t sat down to work this out but will spend those post-Christmas moments on it, ready to hit 2017 hard.

Come and see it anyway – http://ninalewis.webs.com/ – save it to your favourites, it may be the only way to find it again!

This is the week term started and for this half term I faced a new challenge, I have taken on a 3 day week. Okay, that doesn’t sound a lot but they are full paced and challenging days in a block and I am still on medication. What it will mean is I needn’t worry about not having enough work and it will give me a chance to build up skills with individuals, which is half the battle at the chalk-face or whatever it is called now we are all fully interactive.

It was also super busy with Poetry Events, such as Roy McFarlane’s book launch for his collection ‘Beginning with your Last Breath’- Nine Arches. roy-beg-last-breath

A superb event that took place in Wolverhampton at the Arena Theatre. This was a night I did manage to blog about in real time and you can read the post here.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2016/09/19/beginning-with-your-last-breath-by-roy-mcfarlane/

Hit The Ode was the next evening and I was just too exhausted by then to get myself back to the city, fortunately in a move of pure genius Carl Sealeaf was providing LIVE streaming, which was no way as good as being there – but was much better than missing it all. It also meant I had time for 2 hours worth of research and some book promotion work.

I also started to write properly again, something I haven’t really been able to do whilst the pamphlet was still in editorial.

I booked guest poets for my book launch; Roy McFarlane, Antony Owen and Claire Walker. Delighted they all agreed to read.

This week didn’t stop. On Friday I went to Kenilworth to see a Poetry Reading at the Talisman Theatre, curated by David Morley. Just in the foyer alone I was excited to see so many people, many I had seen just a couple of days earlier at Roy’s book launch. By far the most exciting sightings were John & Liz Mills, I had no idea they were coming, we have already decided to make a reunion of it next year, treating ourselves to pre-show dinner, after show drinks and a hotel. They had booked a hotel, I live a little nearer so opted for a night drive.

I also saw Julie Boden and that was a treat. So glad that she made it to the show.

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The show itself was mighty fine. I loved meeting and hearing new to me poets – Luke Kennard, who I have missed every time the opportunity has arisen, Sarah Howe who writes beautiful, honest poetry and Claire Trévien, who loves language and was a joy to watch/listen to. I enjoyed the sets from the poets I do know David Morley, Jo Bell, Jonathan Edwards too. They promised a special evening – and it was!

I really wish I had blogged about it at the time, because so much has happened since, it was a wonderful evening and I remember it fondly.

http://www.kenilworthartsfestival.co.uk/events/poetry

I missed Jo Bell’s workshop on Saturday as I was going to Worcester Music Festival to see The Anti-Poet, after missing them at WLF (Worcester LitFest) in the summer. I loved it! It was a total nightmare to park, but well worth the agro. anti-poet-2

After this I finally COLLECTED my PAMPHLETS!

It was also London Book Fair and although I couldn’t make it this year and missed the opportunity to perform Ambiguous Answers for Paper Swan Press,

 

my book did make it and I got to follow it all on Twitter.

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And FINALLY on Sunday I headed out to the MAC where I watched the new version of Ten Letters. The original last year was crowdfunded, a project that was the brainchild of Lorna Meehan and Spoz. This year they have a few new performers, lots of new writing and media and have been funded by the Lottery and Arts Council.

I was also asked to appear on a panel of writers on Radio – which I was jumping about over, until I realised it was a work day and I wouldn’t be able to get to the studio. However, I have been booked to do this in January. Which hopefully will be an easier month on the calendar and I will be all fresh and ready.

Week 4

This is the week of the Poetry Festival in Stratford-Upon-Avon and I was gutted to miss every event I had hoped to get to. After typing week 3 for the past hour, I can see why I didn’t have the energy to work, play and drive all over the place. The final performance from all the resident poets, ‘Unexpected Encounters’ was something I really wanted to see, but had booked (way back in August) my final birthday meal with friends, where we got to cook our food on hot volcanic rocks and this was something that couldn’t be undone. It was a great night!

It was also Leicester Shindig and I hadn’t realised Claire Walker was featuring there, missed it completely. Leicester was the city I came out as a poet in and performed spoken word for the first time.

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I had several invites to events I missed this week – it was hard enough to stay awake and work without going out in the evenings. I was getting in and falling asleep. I did admin tasks, promotion online and booked tickets for Swindon Poetry Festival. I also managed to get to the local Stanza meeting as well as taking a Headline booking for Stirchley Speaks next month, the night after my Book Launch. I also took my first booking for 2017 and booked up October.

On Sunday I read at Open Poetry in the Arboretum, Walsall and promoted my forthcoming pamphlet. It was a lovely afternoon.

 

The last 5 days – no wonder this month seemed so long!

I continued Market Research, promoting and organising the Book Launch (1 week to go).

I missed some submission deadlines.

Took pre-orders for the pamphlet.

Missed Poetry Bites and the Open Mic at Waterstones, 42 and a Scratch Night. I was attempting to take my editor’s advice and take it easy the week before the launch. Which I managed ALL WEEK and then at the weekend (with 48hrs to launch) I broke my promise to myself.

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MORE ON THAT IN THE OCTOBER REVIEW.

 

 

 

Blog Void

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I promise I will do better (next year), well we all need a resolution don’t we. I realise that I have committed the ultimate sin, I haven’t abandoned this blog (I never will… slightly concerned about what happens when all the data is used up, but am WAY off that eventuality), however, it looks abandoned. So I started to rectify this by listing all the posts I owe the blog and promised to people. These will be posted by the end of the month.

In the meantime here is a whistle-stop breakdown;

October End

Post- INKSPILL (which was our amazing online retreat) I needed some time to recoup energy. During this weekend I was also scheduled to perform and attended a deeply moving workshop.

I had a week off work where I tried to catch up with real-life, family/friends, chores etc. Worked on writing projects, having only just found the ability to write returning after working on the manuscript for 18 months. I also performed and workshopped, took bookings for 2017, raised money for charity at a Quiz Night, celebrated family birthdays and entered some poetry competitions.

November

Started working on a new project, performed poetry, entered a competition, completed research, took writing groups, missed birthday parties, had a bonfire party, went to a gig, wrote new poetry, had work published, bought poetry books, met new to me poets, went to readings and had a few exciting invitations/ opportunities.

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Over the next few weeks I will blog about lots of these things. In the meantime, I share an interesting article written by Sarah James. Reblogged here Reaching Your Audience

 

INKSPILL Guest Writer Roy McFarlane Workshop ‘The Final Write’

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This is Roy’s final workshop, we are delighted with the amazing coverage in these workshops. We are sure you will all agree he has worked extremely hard on this programme. As with all our Guest Writers, time is given for free.

It would be great to see some feedback and response in the comments below, maybe you could even thank Roy by buying his book… the gift would be yours, as ‘Beginning with your last breath’ is an amazing debut collection.

http://ninearchespress.com/publications/poetry-collections/beginning%20with%20your%20last%20breath.html roy-bwylb

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Roy Mcfarlen

© 2014 Najma Hush

 

This was an event I performed at ‘Diverse Dancers’ Photographic Exhibition by Najma Hush. This was the first time I watched Roy perform. I did not meet him properly until later in the year (2014) at Jacqui Rowe’s Poetry Bites. I knew a lot about his poetry and work as he was Poet Laureate for Birmingham 2010-11.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2014/02/22/diverse-dancers-exhibition-najma-hush-performance-event/

I had no idea back then that a few years later he would be producing an amazing collection of workshop exercises exclusively for INKSPILL. I am eternally grateful to you Roy and your generous spirit.

– Nina Lewis

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In the previous part of this workshop we looked at ‘Missing You’, writing about what is left behind, what we possess after our loved ones have passed away.

We start this next part as a link, so look back over what you wrote earlier and dive in for the final write with Roy.

In this workshop Roy re-visits the poetry of Hannah Lowe and W.H Auden.


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We started with objects at the beginning, so let’s finish with the idea of what we possess after our loved ones have passed away, and again explore beyond the normal aspects of gift, but maybe they left you with a burden, left you with a secret, left you with a joke, left with your beautiful memories; the page is yours.

The list poem comes to mind, where we just list what we have before us but you’re a poet, you have to take the naming of this list to another place, let’s look at the third passage from Six Day in March by Hannah Lowe.

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So this is what I’m left with.

A stained brown cufflink box lined

with stained red silk,

two black elastic loops, one snapped and frayed.

I hold it to my nose, search out

the sweat-and-tobacco smell of his hair, his clothes,

the old yellow cardigan. What’s a life made of?

Fifteen pounds in a post office account,

a notebook scrawled in horses’ form,

one photograph of three Jamaican aunts

in white lace dresses, straight-backed

with clasped hands under a palm tree?

Is there a sense of disappointment with that opening line or is it the sense of weightlessness of life the lack of worth maybe? And so she seeks for something tangible, search out the sweat-and-tobacco smell of his hair… the desperation of loss is felt her, the need to hold on to you every piece of her father’s DNA.

We all know Auden’s stop all the clocks, but how about this lover’s lament

As I Walked Out One Evening

And down by the brimming river

I heard a lover sing

Under an arch of the railway:

Love has no ending.

I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you

Till China and Africa meet,

And the river jumps over the mountain

And the station sing in the street

And then this beautiful gem…

the glacier knocks in the cupboard,

The desert sighs in the bed,

And the crack in the tea-cup opens

A lane to the land of the dead.

And then after all that declaration of love, the reality of life that life goes on

It was late, late in the evening,

The lovers they were gone;

The clocks had ceased their chiming,

And the deep river ran on.


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Exercise

Think of a moment, an everyday situation, walking past lovers by the river, clock chiming in the background. A supermarket aisle, with the Tannoy going off; sitting in a café with the sound of the vending machines; football terraces and a goal being scored; in the stalls of an operatic piece and the conductor taps the stand; think of something of the presence that shows the living, the continuation of life, whilst we remember our loved ones.


 

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: