I realise despite writing 38 poems in the past 4 weeks for NaPoWriMo, you haven’t seen any of them – so I can treat you all to a full poem today care of IS&T who kindly published‘Where We Begin’, it is the featured poem today.
Much of the poetry I wrote in 2020 (beyond my own ongoing projects), was as a result of fantastic, generous workshops. When I reminded myself of the origins of this poem I knew I needed to add thanks to Zelda Chappel.
Zelda ran several classes/workshops throughout Lockdown. This poem came from the Week 1 Writing in New Spaces, so thanks Zelda for making me write in the fresh places.
It was written over a year ago, a few weeks into the 1st Lockdown, it reminds me how far we have and have not come.
With gratitude to IS&T and Helen Ivory for considering this poem.
Last year I tried not to write about Coronavirus, it crept into a lot of the work and in the end I fell into the school of thought that part of the job of a poet is to comment on our experiences and the times and 2020 was certainly packed with events that found way to many pens for those of us who could still write.
As far as submissions go, I haven’t actively been working on that as I have been busy with writer/editor/reader head on for a while and have seen many collections pass my way. I did have a couple of other poems published in another anthology too, Geography is Irrelevant but most of my C0’19 poems cling on in notebooks!
I am excited to be performing again at the Walt Whitman Birthplace this evening, (I featured there in Oct. 2020).
WWBA is delighted to host a live poetry reading to celebratethe release of “Corona: An Anthology of Poems” editedby Gayl Teller, the Nassau County Poet Laureate for 2009-11 and the 2016 Walt Whitman Birthplace Poet of the Year. This luminous collaboration of 98 poets, including many poets laureate from the US and abroad, evinces a kaleidoscope of perspectives and experiences during our historic and traumatic time of pandemic and racial strife. Celebrate Poetry Month with us on Zoom during a live reading with a diverse group of poets sharing their reflections on the quarantine, social distancing, masks, and other aspects of the global pandemic.
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.
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!
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.
Well this is the first post this month online but August was packed, PACKED with poetry. I am still catching up on some blog posts from June-July and now will be adding August to the pile.
Here’s the month in snapshot!
Before Perth Poetry Festival I blanked my diary out as much as possible and missed some fine Midlands poetry events.
I did a lot of research for Perth Poetry Festival and signed up to an anthology which I was lucky enough to be online for when the thread was posted, a project that is so popular it has a reserve list (more on this later).
The main event this week was a Book Launch in Cheltenham for a charity anthology that I was fortunate to have the shortest poem (apart from short form) I have ever written included in it. The event at Hatherley Manor was dreamy and wonderful and the book raises funds for the cat rescue charity New Start Cat Rescue Centre, Huntley, Gloucestershire.
I will be creating a full blog post soon (and link back here when I am done).
This anthology ‘All a Cat Can Be’ was the brainchild of Sharon Larkin and I am privileged to be involved. It would make a great Christmas gift for any cat lover.
“This book is as gloriously varied as the beloved cats it celebrates. Here you will find poems which are witty, thoughtful, moving, and light-footed. ‘All a Cat Can Be’ offers something to please every reader, while helping cats desperate for a good home. And the photographs are irresistible!” – Alison Brackenbury
Edited by Sharon Larkin and Sheila Macintyre.
I also sent a poem to Lucy Dougan for her Monster Field Workshop.
Week 2 & 3
I started working on INKSPILL – annual online writing retreat right here on AWF. More on this soon. Secured this year’s Guest Writers and started research.
I worked tirelessly for a fortnight attempting to get the final issue of Contour Poetry Magazine live before flying off to the Southern Hemisphere. I was at this point still waiting for copy, so did what any good editor should do and contacted the poets who had successfully made publication and shelved the remaining editorial until my return.
And then I flew to Perth, WA.
Where I had an incredible time (lots of posts to follow). It was an amazing festival and I did as much of it as I could!
Was mainly jet lag and editing… not a workable combination.
I managed to get myself back into Birmingham – it has been too long – over 12 months I think. I went to the Big White Shed Brum night and it was packed with poetry – wall to wall and heart through heart.
I am going to write the evening up over the weekend if I have a chance but it was a special night. The fusion of East & West (Midlands). There is a cracking poetry scene in Nottingham and this evening was proof of fine work happening in the region.
A soft spot for me as I started Spoken Word in the East Midlands in Leicester.
The last 6 weeks has been much harder than the 15 years I spent not writing whilst I focused on my career. A career I gave up on in 2013 after an 8 year slide into depression. I have spent the past 5 years doing what I do best without having to put up with all the hoop jumping, red tape, politics and thankless 80 hour weeks! I also spent the last half a decade saying a resounding NO to any opportunity to work longer than a 2 week period.
However with an International Poetry Festival scheduled I felt the universe was delivering when I was offered a complete term. Here I am halfway through, I managed a whole month and a half back at the chalk-face full time (almost, some pre-booked poetry events allowed me a little time off for good behaviour). It has certainly been a hectic whirlwind working and freelancing simultaneously!
Tonight I am celebrating my 9 day freedom by working on everything in the montage above and more. My poetry skin is slipped back on and I do not need to think about work (or report writing) for a while.
This Bank Holiday weekend I am spending some time offline with Mr. G. as the Bank Holiday at the beginning of May was filled with Poetry Events.
I have a fortnight left as Worcestershire Poet Laureate and excitingly the judging process has begun to find the next one, the three finalists have been announced by themselves across social media, not sure WLF have posted the official announcements yet.
I am planning my penultimate Spark Young Writer group for Writing West Midlands, many of us have been given the nod this year. It is not a forever job, they tell you this at the beginning. WWM like to support as many writers as they can and they feel these roles benefit from fresh Leaders and so, if you are lucky you will squeeze about 3 years out of the deal. I will be sad to lose this part of my writing life, but it has been a fantastic opportunity and left me with a bank of wonderful, creative plans and activities to incorporate into future work/workshops for Young Adults/children.
I have a backlog of Blog posts to come reviewing Book Launches, Festival appearances and interviews.
I am working on Issue 4 of Contour, the final WPL digital magazine and reading submissions to the Science collection. There is still time to submit your work to both, just follow these links:
The Twin Town is going well, the European Project hosts just 4 collaborations, certainly an easier task to manage than ATOTC, with it’s mammoth 23 pairings! Several French/Anglo pairs have completed their poems and the deadline is this evening, so I am hoping to wrap it up before the end of my tenure (10th June). The French work is being translated, a truly bilingual collection.
I am currently organising events for the Poetry Day at Artsfest 2018 and as part of the Poetry Extravaganza in the evening we will have the first UK ATOTC Collective Reading.
A few weeks ago many poets received copies of Bonnie’s Crew, a poetry anthology compiled by Kate Garrett to raise funds for Leeds General Infirmary Congenital Hearts Unit, via the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund.
Kate agreed to an interview a few weeks ago, I hope to start promoting it as soon as I can. It is a fabulous collection of poems.
I started the month with my editing hat on. Submissions closed for Contour (digital WPL magazine), the 2nd Issue – ‘Love’, scheduled for release 4 months after the 1st Issue ‘Place’. My plan was to have 3 to 4 magazines during my tenure. I will successfully manage that, there is a Special Edition coming in April for the ‘A Tale Of Two Cities’ Project and then in June on the day I hang up my Laureate crown and watch the new Laureateship launch, I will release the final issue.
It has been a steep and brilliant learning curve and a real pleasure. It has been a great opportunity to discover talented poets on a National and International level too.
Whatever else I think, I can rest soundly knowing that I promoted poetry and offered abundant opportunities for writing during my year. I have 3 months (I like to say a quarter of a year because it sounds longer) left, but already the competition is open to find the next Laureate and the feelings of being bereft are already settling. I shall find ways of dealing with this. Such as embarking on International Poetry Adventures and writing my first collection. But I am sure it will feel a little strange.
I also spent an incredible amount of time on the ATOTC project, which again has been a huge bite to chew, but I have loved every minute. It has certainly taught me a thing or two. The Response poems are coming in and it is wonderful to read the interpretations of the Call poems. I am slightly worried that the whole project may total over 200 pages… certainly enough reading material to keep you busy on a rainy day!
ATOTC is my main WPL project and it has certainly been the biggest. I am incredibly excited by the next stages of the project and the plans I have for it beyond that. It is going to be magnificent!
I edited some poems which had been waiting patiently in the wings and finally started working on my own response poem for ATOTC. I wanted to get it cast to paper before the weekend as I have a chance to edit it.
Things are intentionally quiet on the performance front with most of my attention set for Verve Poetry & Spoken Word Festival in Birmingham, mid-February. Other than this I am busy with desk tasks and workshop preparation.
This week I prepared for a meeting for a Gifted and Talented Workshop I am doing, I am excited as it involves multiple local schools.
I also prepared for my final session/workshop at Rugby Library as the Reader in Residence.
I attended an editing group at the weekend where my ATOTC was fine tuned and is now a strong pastiche of Linda Warren’s poem. Look out for the Special Edition Contour in April to read our Call & Response poems.
I took a booking for National Poetry Day. (4th Oct.) after which I will be heading off to Swindon Poetry Festival.
A very busy start to the week editing Issue 2 of Contour Magazine, working out the running order and formatting. It took an inane amount of time (roughly 3 days), lots of difficulties on the technical side of desktop publishing – but the results were worth it.
I had a meeting regarding school workshops booked for March, which was fabulous. I am very excited about this workshop.
The following day I drove to Rugby Library for my final Reader in Residence workshop. It was a small group but a wonderful morning and those in attendance enjoyed it.
I am writing a Guest Blog Review for the library and will link it back to AWF. My Residency finishes in March and I hoping for one last trip to the library for something special, more on that soon.
I planned my Suffragette Workshop for Saturday at The Hive, started work organising the poetry events for the summer ArtsFest in Droitwich, sent emails to successful contributors of Contour and took a booking for Brum Stanza.
I also started prep for Verve Poetry & Spoken Word Festival (15-18th Feb.). This year I am the Official Festival Blogger, last year I blogged about most of the events and attended pretty much the entire festival (which is no mean feat – with a packed 2 day weekend programme, workshops and events on the preceding evenings), worth the exhaustion though and I also wrote a full review for Sabotage Reviews. This year, I have arranged to write the review for them again and have booked my workshops (one of which I won by coming 2nd in the Haiku Slam at Grizzly Pear) and have my new Kindle Bluetooth Keyboard Case (Christmas present) all ready. Look out for lots of updates, I shall be sharing from the Verve official site.
Thursday I went to SpeakEasy which was Headlined by the wonderful Jenna Clake and I enjoyed her set from Fortune Cookie, which won the 2016 Melita Hume Prize for Poetry . It was a vibrant evening of poetry and even though I was shattered, I had a great night. I shared a couple of city poems and it was good to catch up with Jenna before Verve.
Watch out for an Interview with Jenna Clake in the Contour Issue 4 (June).
You can buy a copy of this award winning debut collection published by Eyewear here.
Friday it snowed (which is as exciting as anything writing related), I was working in a school on the hills and was slightly concerned about getting home, but it had melted by then!
I also had Stanza where I took my Contour Love Poem for some editing treatment, it was a lovely evening, filled with poetry and critique. It was good to reconnect, I missed our December meeting due to being too tired after work and January from ill health. It was good to be back. Also a new exciting opportunity was discussed.
This was followed by my Suffragette Workshop in The Hive, Worcester. The workshop was attended by 11 people and I was happy to see a mix of friends, strangers & people who have followed my WPL projects online. It was an informal, whistle stop creative session of just an hour (which worked particularly well for those who left partners in the Hive’s cafe). It was fun and I have already started to receive work for the anthology.
The exhibition runs until 23rd February and can be found on Level 2.
Mr G. and I went to see Cloudbusting (Kate Bush Tribute band) again, the 4th time I think, this time they had a full stage with Media show, which we had not seen before! The next day I was busy editing Contour Magazine – YES! For the WHOLE day!
My first full writing day in over 2 weeks and I planned a whole list of writing tasks (none of which were actual writing)… however, I spent another whole day on the magazine. It was finally live by the evening.
With a reach of over 600 readers already (in less than 24 hours). Issue 2 has a fine collection of love poetry, a load of Interviews with Pete The Temp, Jeff Cottrill, Amy Rainbow and Sharon Carr and a list of Top Poems voted by the public and is well worth a read.
I also booked my flights to Australia – where I am an International Guest Poet at the Festival in Perth (August), this made it very real! I also shared this news, which I have been sitting on since November.
I shared the next stage of the Suffragettes Poetry Project with workshop attendees and attended a Worcester LitFest Committee Meeting. There have been many changes to the team since I took up the Poet Laureate post, it was an agenda packed evening. It also helped me finalise plans for World Poetry Day (21st March) my official Laureate remit event. It should be great.
I have since worked on publicity and marketing but as ever with organisation, need to wait for one confirmation before I can go live!
I have been busy working through Response Poems (ATOTC), dreading the proofing stage with over 40 poets… but we have a good stock of coffee and I plan to use Half Term to get the majority ready.
I received my copy of a wonderful book, brainchild of Isabelle Kenyon. I have yet to read it in full. I have dipped in. A great collection of poems and funds raised with be donated to MIND – Mental Health Charity. I will be writing a full blog post soon to promote this project.
I had my BBC Hereford & Worcester Radio Interview with Tammy Gooding and this month it was a slightly extended recording due to us discussing love poetry and the work of Pablo Neruda! It was fun and I shared the love poem recently published in Contour.
Started with jet lag, which is the only way to describe the post festival haze of Verve. Wise to this, having attended the full programme last year too – I made sure the diary was empty and the bed was full! I slept, I ate my first meal for 5 days and I hit the desk.
Writing Verve Reviews, sending proofs for ATOTC, working on bids, sent promo for an event I am part of at the end of end of April, Bohemian Voices organised by Steve Soden and slept some more!
Fortunately it was half term this week so I didn’t have to juggle work into the equation. I mainly worked on proof copy for ATOTC Special Edition Contour magazine and had meetings.
Starting with Room 204, one of the main attractions is the 1 to 1 mentoring with Jonathan Davidson. It was a productive and useful meeting and I have come away with a page of tasks to incorporate into my work and gold-dust that I needed to acknowledge.
I met with Carolyn Baldwin at the Jinney Ring to finalise the exhibition of our sculpture trail poems from the workshop in September. The poems will be on display in the restaurant for the whole of April. Wonderful news AND even better news for me I have secured future Sculpture Trail workshops. So there will be a new one in September! Carolyn also sent me home with a generous portion of cake! Always a bonus – perfect meeting requirements I would suggest.
On Thursday I met with Stephen Evans, one of the DAN artists involved in the Hanbury Hall event. My poem has been displayed alongside his artwork in exhibitions in January and now this month too, so far it has been part of Maltstones Exhibition, an exhibition in the Library and now in Parks Cafe.
Stephen showed me a family album from WW2 at the reading event for Hanbury Hall Poets back in November. I used it as primary source inspiration and managed to write 4 poems or so but it is a precious object and I feel much happier now he has it back.
Thursday Night I went to support Claire Walker who was headlining at The Caffe Grande Slam in Dudley. Ian Glass and I found ourselves unwittingly signed up for the slam. I don’t Slam.
It was a fun night and a great little cafe to be in on a cold night. Ian smashed the slam and won! He goes back in April to perform a 10 minute set.
He also won the Xylophone of Mirth, but as he had driven us all to Dudley he wasn’t able to play it all the way home!
Jean Atkin was facilitating a workshop at the Bishop Castle Artsfest that I had hoped to attend, but our boiler is broken and I had to be home for the engineer. I spent most of the day at the desk writing for Verve, the boiler is still broken.
On Saturday I had a workshop with Angela France, it was a great session and I managed at least one poem and have a page of potential other poems.
On Sunday, whilst writing a poem for a Festival Anthology (more on this soon), I unearthed another line of writing I want to pursue, I have 3 pages of notes to return to at a quieter time (perhaps 2019). The exciting element is they balance something I am already working on.
The Extra Days
On Monday (after turning up for work and discovering I was a day early) I went home and wrote copy for a Worcester News Article promoting the Poet Laureate competition. Jess Charles jumped on it and it was live by the afternoon.
I also worked on my first ever Grants application and booked a workshop in May.
Tuesday work was cancelled, it started to snow (we have no working boiler) and I spent 14 hours completing my application. 14 hours. A steep learning curve – on evaluation I will give myself a month to complete the forms next time!
I took on a temporary teaching position for a fortnight (just in time for World Book Day) and drove in the snow! I went to see the Royal Ballet Live Screening of The Winter’s Tale (one of my favourite Shakespeare plays), a present from Mr. G’s mum for Christmas. It was amazing!
Just before we reach the halfway point of November I thought I would get my head down and tell you about last month!
October was such a whirlwind month. An abundant welcome into the winter and came with the realisation that I have not submitted anything for 5 months (I have organised enough WPL events to fill 100 pages of my notebook) and written more commissioned poems than I can count on all my fingers and toes… but this is something I want to get back to before the end of the year. So now I will find some extra time to carve out, December is looking good!
I wanted to go to Kim Moore’s workshop at Buzzwords, but I didn’t get back from my stint in London at the Poetry Book Fair/Free Verse in time. Well technically, I could have detoured to Cheltenham in time but energy levels were so long I didn’t think I would manage the late drive home or even stay awake for writing and my brain was as tired as my body. It was amazing according to everyone who was there and having taken her workshop at the Verve Festival in February, I don’t doubt it!
I had my Adam Speaks Treehouse poem accepted for the NT project at Croome Court. With NPD, Credo and then hot-footing down South I had forgotten the deadline on this writing, which was already tight. This was the first poem I was forced to send on my phone, thank goodness it was a submission in the body of an email. I had to send it from Free Verse and it was a definite last minute submission. Fortunately, I didn’t look too rude doing so as the hall was packed with poets live tweeting.
I had a school workshop planned which sadly had to be postponed, I look forward to this in 2018 although I expect to change my plans to fit the curriculum topics in the Spring Term.
Then I went down to Swindon for the Poetry Festival, now in it’s 5th year (and my 3rd). I cannot express how much I love this festival. This was my first year of stewarding, generally I buy festival passes or lots of events tickets and arrive as a punter, network, drink and absorb poetry into my very core. I knew working on the team would make this experience completely different but I also knew it was a solid team to be part of and saw volunteering as the biggest thank you I could give.
I was also booked to perform V Formation with fellow V. Press Poets Stephen Daniels and Gram Joel Davies (also notably on the team).
Some of the team and performers at the opening event POEMS ALOUD Artsite, Number Nine Gallery, Theatre Square, Swindon
V FORMATION – POETS of V. PRESSRJ Museum Tent-Palace
A celebration of three new and exciting voices in British poetry: Stephen Daniels, Gram Joel Davies and Nina Lewis.
Stephen Daniels is the editor of Amaryllis Poetry and Strange Poetry websites. His debut pamphlet Tell Mistakes I Love Them was published in 2017 by V. Press. Gram Joel Davies lives in Devon and his pamphlet, Bolt Down This Earth was V. Press’ Forward Prize nominee for 2017. Nina Lewis is Worcestershire Poet Laureate and her debut pamphlet Fragile Houses was published by V. Press in 2016.
Our readings were on the 1st night and the event went well, was well attended and people were still talking about it a few days later.
Swindon Poetry Festival needs a blog post and I will write a full review as soon as I can find time to do so. Another case of better late than never!
Highlights in brief:
WORKSHOP: The Dynamic Poem Holiday InnWith Daljit Nagra
Poems can sometimes seem flat and lack vigour, they can drift along in a dreamy mood without any conviction. Daljit will explore with examples from contemporary poetry how to put the fizz back into a poem. Participants should expect to have attempted at least one new lively poem!
READINGS RJ Museum Tent-Palace
Poke into the poetry box! Treasures of the heart, inca-named stardust, and various severed body parts! An hour of humour and water with Sue Rose, Emma Simon and Simon Williams.
Emma Simon won the Prole Laureate poetry competition in 2013 and loss, love & severed body parts scatter through her first collection Dragonish (The Emma Press). Simon Williams latest collection, Inti, was published in July. Sue Rose is the author of three poetry collections. Heart Archives was published by Hercules Editions in 2014.
POETS & PUBLISHERSRJ Museum Tent-Palace
Discussions led by poet Carrie Etter with two prominent poetry editors, Amy Wack and Mary Jean Chan. Come and join a discussion about what it takes to get published.
Carrie Etter is a Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Her most recent collection, Imagined Sons (Seren, 2014), was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award in New Work in Poetry by The Poetry Society.
Since 1990, American expatriate Amy Wack has edited Seren Books’ multi-prizewinning poetry list. Her own poems have appeared in various journals, most recently a 12-part poem inspired by feral cats in Spain in Long Poem Magazine.
Mary Jean Chan, from Hong Kong, is shortlisted for the 2017 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem and is Co-Editor at Oxford Poetry. Her work has been published in The Poetry Review, Ambit, The Rialto, The London Magazine, Callaloo Journal.
WORKSHOP: Call and Response Sun Inn With Rishi Dastidar
We’ve all been to workshops where we’ve been inspired by other poems, maybe visual art too, and then written in response to them. So what happens when we use pop songs instead? That’s the simple premise behind ‘Call and Response’, where some great music will hopefully provide great inspiration for writing poems. Just bring some paper, pencils – and your ears.
Rishi Dastidar is a fellow of The Complete Works, a consulting editor at The Rialto magazine, a member of the Malika’s Poetry Kitchen collective. His debut collection, Ticker-tape, is published by Nine Arches Press.
During the festival I missed the beginning of Birmingham Literature Festival and a meeting with the poets involved in the Elgar Poetry Project.
Swindon Poetry Festival and the highlights of the weekend. An amazing end to the festival was Monday morning, breakfast with Daljit and then Breakfast and Poetry over at the Tent Palace as our festival finale.
I got back on Monday afternoon and Monday evening was straight out to open mic at Licensed to Rhyme in the new venue Cafe Morso, Barnt Green.
As WPL I was busy gathering submissions for World Mental Health Day – as Mental Health Week started when I was in Swindon and I had been hit by the dreaded Swindon Lurgy! Which meant I missed most of the events at Birmingham Literature Festival that I planned to go to!
I was also organising the Hanbury Hall Project for poets to go and write about artwork displayed in the Long Gallery by DAN. The Gallery opened on the 10th and the exhibition ran until the 29th and they had over 3300 visitors, only 15 of which were poets!
Not as WPL but as a poet I was also busy preparing INKSPILL – our online writing retreat.
I missed tons of events being ill (proper ill with blankets).
I made it back to the edge of health in time to perform as WPL at the SpeakEasy event for Mental Health Day at Cafe Bliss, this is a wonderful annual event which brings together speakers from a variety of Mental Health and Wellbeing backgrounds, agencies such as The Samaritans and this year The Shaw Trust and of course local poets.
It was a very moving experience and a good afternoon. I also received submissions for the World Mental Health Day Anthology from participants. I love it when the WPL projects reach local people through events and radio broadcasts. I made the decision to keep the submission open on the Mental Health collection for the duration of my tenure. We raise awareness of it a few times a year through these calendar events, but actually it is everyday living for 1 in 4 (official statistics were 1 in 5 but recent NHS figures show 1 in 4).
The following day after dragging myself around a D.I.Y store with Mr G. I diagnosed myself healthy enough to venture into Birmingham to catch Joe Cook and Hollie McNish at the Town Hall. This is the 2nd time this year I have seen Hollie and she was as wonderful as ever. It was also the 2nd time this year I gave up on queuing to meet her. I met her several times in 2015 and I know I will get my new books signed one day!
I had planned to get to Wellington Festival, but I still wasn’t 100% well and also my car was slightly damaged over the weekend.
I made it to Hanbury Hall and was able to meet up with the Cheltenham contingency of poets (well, some of them). I took plenty of photos and notes and ended up writing 8 poems – 6 of which will make it public.
On the 18th I was back in Birmingham for Stablemates at Waterstones. Jill Abram always sends me an invite to these London events, so I could hardly refuse when she brought it to the Midlands. It was a fantastic night. I really felt uplifted by the end of it. It was also a chance to finally meet and watch Rosie Garland who I have heard so much about. I got to see Jackie Hagan again (last time I saw her was at Hit the Ode) and listening to Henry Normal was a pleasure, I love the fact his is Oscar nominated and a BAFTA winner and has yet returned to his first love of poetry.
I started to promote my first WPL event for children, which had been in the pipeline for a while. The WLF team produce a Halloween Event for LITtleFest at St.John’s library which along with the usual storytelling, pumpkin carving and treats I included a Writing Workshop for 5 – 9+ years old.
I also had a call out for Halloween Poem Submissions which needed a push.
I spent the tail end of the week working on the Elgar Poetry commission (WPL).
I had my 2nd writing meeting with Spark Young Writers at The Hive, we had a go at our own spooky theme and also had the new WWM Operations Assistant, Heddwen Creaney come to visit our group.
I spent 4 days busily researching Elgar and completing 14 new poems for the event in November.
I spent some admin time organising festival events for 2018.
I worked on my WMRN role as Reader in Residence for Rugby Library organising next month’s Review Writing Workshop.
I had my WPL spot on BBC Hereford & Worcester with Tammy Gooding, talked about the Elgar Project and Mental Health. I shared my poem ‘First Steps’ from Fragile Houses.
In the evening I enjoyed dressing up for Halloween (I looked like a Gothic Librarian – but what I wanted was Suz Winspear our first Goth Poet Laureate) and went to 42. It was rather cramped as we were in the Lunar Bar upstairs and it was a great turn out for the night. It also gave me a chance to promote the Halloween submission call too.
I missed Jenna Clake’s Book Launch of ‘Fortune Cookie’ in Birmingham, which I was gutted about but I also asleep by the time it started. So the right call was made!
We had a Stanza meeting and then it was Week 5!
INKSPILL of course, which needs no introduction around here… our 5th annual online writing retreat – it is mad to think we have been going for as long as Swindon Poetry Festival! This year’s Guest Poets were Antony Owen & Stephen Daniels, both fellow V. Press poets, although I hadn’t realised that until after the booking.
It was a massively successful and fun weekend. Take a look at the programme page if you missed it and you should be able to navigate through from there using the menu tools on screen.
It was also the Halloween Event at the library – where my workshop was attended by children aged 4 to 12, all enjoyed themselves and watched me, dressed as a witch attempting to fly around the room. They did ask why my face wasn’t green and I told them all about the family tea party I was going to afterwards.
It was fun and the most exhausting WPL event yet!
On Sunday I spent a long time creating the first issue of the WPL Magazine Contour– submissions all about Place/Worcestershire closed at the end of August and since then I have been sifting through work. Fortunately during some local research I discovered Philip Halling and we were able to use his images throughout the magazine with a few additions from local poets.
The end of the DAN Exhibition at Hanbury Hall was marked with a closing celebration on the 30th which Polly Stretton was invited to read her poem ‘Curves’ at. Polly won a competition created by Peter Hawkins (Chair) to find a poem for the closing of the exhibition. I sneaked one of mine in as WPL/Organiser of the poetry part of the project.
The artist for my piece was there, Stephen Evans and I am delighted that he will be using my work alongside his painting in his next exhibition in December.
I successfully completed a WPL Productions Poetry Film to show off the HalloweenPoetry Submissions and added some prose as a one off Poet Laureate special to the blog.
At the end of May, I was notified of the Worcester Poet Laureate finals as I was a finalist, I still hadn’t told many people I had entered. This year our poems were not open to vote on the LitFest site and so many people didn’t know who the participants were.
But I knew. I am getting used to keeping success secret until the time comes when you can share the news. It is tricky and sometimes frustrating, but it is delightful when you can finally go public.
So after the official finalists announcement, I did just that and went public with my news. Damon Lord and Louise Reeder were the other finalists and it is a competition all of us had entered before.
Most of this week was spent preparing for the 9th (WLF Poet Laureate Final/Launch), memorising poetry and writing my brief summary of what I would do in role were I lucky enough to be awarded the position.
I also prepared for our WLF show (11th June) 30-40-60 in collaboration with Kathy Gee & Claire Walker. I had poetry film work to edit and a major software crisis. I was also co-ordinating/ organising the Open Mic section of the show.
Thursday 1st June saw UNCORKED at Bottles, Holly Daffurn’s wonderful new vibey poetry/spoken word night. This started back in April (20th) and at the time I am sure Holly hoped to do it again, at the time she wasn’t sure if it would become a regular event. I am glad to see that it has.
The Headliners were Charley Barnes, Hannah Teesdale and Spoz. I was going to be on this bill but then Charley’s book was released and it was decided better timing for her to appear. (I am happily headlining next month.) It was a fabulous night and I thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting with Hannah and listening to sterling sets from all the featured artists.
The open mic section (of which I was part) worked well too. I wish I had more time to write timely reviews, like I used to back in the day. One man who can be relied upon to do just that is Rick Sanders, re-reading his review brought it all back to me, so hopefully it will make you feel like you were there too.
Friday night was Stanza and Saturday saw a clash of events, a pre-book Book Launch in Walsall and a editing/workshop in Cheltenham. I always go with the first booking and that was the workshop.
I was due to perform in the Stoke Newington Literature Festival for the Shabda Press launch, but was geographically not close enough to make it to London in time and after cancelling last month’s workshop, didn’t really want to do the same.
In the end common sense won (rare result) and I headed home.
On Sunday a new event happened in Walsall – the brainchild and action of Dave Pitt, Steve Pottinger and Emma Purshouse – Yes we Cant – they had a banner made and everything. I love the pay what you think concept and I LOVED the fact that Jonny Fluffypunk was the first headliner. I was going anyway – but when I discovered that it sealed it for sure!
Paul Francis was the other featured guest and I have not seen him for so long. Back to full health and with a new pamphlet, an irresistible buy at only £3 and for a ruddy good cause. Breaking Point – Poems about Migration.
You can read more about the launch in Much Wenlock here.
I had a great night, the venue was packed and hot! It will be interesting to see how they configure the furniture next time, the open mic spots were enjoyed and I was lucky enough to get there in time to grab one! They had an open poetry competition, on the night 8 lines of topical story in poetic form, with a winner (Mogs, of course) and prizes and everything.
They had table decorations and a fun party atmosphere, frantically fun at times. Paul’s set was incredible powerful and thought provoking and Jonny was on TOP form! I was delighted to get to chat a bit at the end, always aware of getting in the way of new fandom for this man. I snapped up Poundland Rimbaud, his latest Burning Eye collection and chatted politics for a while (on the cusp of the election).
I had a great night and this is definitely a night I will attend again, although I have to miss Brenda Read-Brown on the 2nd July due to a festival event and a family party.
It was a wild way to end the week and leaves me wishing Walsall could be moved a little closer!
After a 5 day run on events, I planned to crack on with some down time pre- Worcester LitFest and apart from working and the inevitable household chore list, I managed some rest – from performing at least.
I have been so busy for the past few months that I have missed the opportunity of submitting work and things on the desk are now living in mountainous piles. My focus was the LitFest and our show 30-40-60 that allowing brainspace for anything else was almost impossible.
I had two poems published by Weasel Press in a digital anthology highlighting Domestic Abuse. One of the poems ‘Ripped’ was written this year during NaPoWriMo, the other ‘Statues in Stone’ is a poem I have tinkered with for years.
On Friday the 7th Worcester LitFest kicked off with the Launch and Poet Laureate Final at Worcester Racecourse, just thinking back makes me feel exhausted. There is so much tension and anxiety caused by putting yourself through any competition, but one with these stakes… well.
I thoroughly enjoyed the new venue, I couldn’t enjoy the bar and nibbles as I had work to do and much as I managed to circulate and converse the thrilling excitement everyone else was experiencing was just like nauseating sea-sickness in my mind and stomach.
The Young Writers Competition entries were read and those teens had so much talent I bet there was not a person in the room who didn’t consider hanging up their pen! The 3 winning flash fiction entries were also celebrated before us finalists took to the floor with our poems and promises.
In case you have missed social media for the past 3 weeks… I won! Delighted.
Suz Winspear – Former Worcestershire Poet Laureate, Nina Lewis and Steve Wilson – County Arts Officer.
For up to date information and all things Worcestershire/Poetry check out my Laureate blog here.
Saturday was a tough day – after the excitement of becoming the new Poet Laureate, I had 3 hours sleep and journeyed into Birmingham to the University for the National Writers Conference, organised by Writing West Midlands.
This used to be called the Writers Toolkit, I haven’t been since 2014. Tickets are fairly pricey but completely worth the investment. If you do the sums, (three break out sessions, 2 key-note speakers, priceless networking opportunities, lunch, refreshments and performances are all included in the ticket price AND a goody bag) – it does not feel unreasonably high. This year as I am in Room 204 a free ticket is one of the many perks of the development programme and only 3 hours sleep was NOT going to stop me attending.
I had a wonderful day, met a few new people and reconnected with poet/writer friends. It was lovely to snatch brief conversations with a few of the keynote speakers before they rushed off to Welshpool Literature Festival, I will write a designated post next month and link it back to here. Too much to say in a review paragraph. Needless to say, loved the whole event and got some things out of it. It felt very different to the first time.
I managed a couple of hours at home before my first OFFICIAL engagement as Worcestershire Poet Laureate.
Night at the Museum III – Suz Winspear – Poet in Residence at the Porcelain Museum, Matt Windle – Birmingham Poet Laureate, Oakley – Young Poet Laureate of Worcestershire, Chloe Clarke – Former Young Poet Laureate Worcestershire and myself performed sets of poetry before Suz launched her new Worcester Porcelain pamphlet – The Aniseed Elite. https://www.museumofroyalworcester.org/product/pamphlet-2/
It was a fabulous night of top notch poetry from a talented bunch of poet laureates, a pleasure to be part of and I felt very special. My set included my two finalists poems ‘Lit Up’ (on the theme of Voice) and ‘Tasseomancy’. A less nervous performance of both.
Sunday was filled with preparation for our debut showing of 30-40-60 at the LitFest, another incredible, adrenaline fuelled evening of poetry and pleasure.
I started promoting 30-40-60, before the show I had sent press releases out in the hope of future festival bids, after hearing the audience reaction I was spurred on to get something concrete organised for 2018.
I also started Laureateship work, traditionally the Poet Laureate has a local radio slot (BBC Hereford & Worcester), Suz put me in touch with the contact and my first radio interview is on 3rd July. The past Laureates have been strong and I want to build on their success, continuing work where the foundations have been laid as well as building new poetry constructs is all part of my mission.
I organised a poetry performance and picnic at an established event ‘SALT KING 200’ at the Chateau Impney – in celebration of John Corbett and put a call out for poetry submissions for a Refugee Anthology, World Refugee Day/ Refugee Awareness Week.
I also created a dedicated WPL blog and email account. I have a feeling I will need both this year!
Worcester LitFest was in full swing and I attended and performed at 42 Festival Special, which featured the Anti-Poet and was an anarchy driven night of high spirits and the following night SpeakEasy with Pete the Temp, which was also the evening Suz and I did the official hand over and had a few more photos taken of the now engraved WPL award!
I hope to create a dedicated blog post for more details in review of the 7th Worcester LitFest – keep your eyes peeled!
I also received a couple of gifts, a wooden ‘Laureate’s Nook’ sign from Mr G. for my Book Nook (to be created) and a folder with a certificate from Maggie Doyle Poet Laureate Emeritus.
I also promoted National Writing Day and performed at the final WLF Fringe event for the 2017 Festival – Words on Water – A Midsummer celebration of poetry and prose on the banks of the River Severn. It was an excellent evening and this year even saw a stop off for a much needed rest (it was during the heatwave) and rehydration at the Diglis Hotel. An addition the whole team agree to repeat next year. I will write more about it in my LitFest round up review next month.
At the beginning of the week when my recent win was not the wide-spread news it is now – I was invited to perform at a well established Poetry Festival later this year!
I had a 10 minute Guest Spot at Licensed to Rhyme at the Artrix – the night is run by Maggie Doyle & Spoz.
I worked on a couple of projects I am currently involved with. Spent an afternoon at Croome Court as preparation for the Adam Speak Project (Room 204) with 9 other poets.
On Friday evening I ventured back to Birmingham to Waterstones (seems like ages), for Three Midland Poets a night with Nichola Deane, Rich Goodson and Charles G Lauder Jr.
I loved all of their performances and always enjoy meeting, hearing and reading new-to-me-poets. I ended up buying all three books thanks to some (intentionally) hidden handbag book money! It was a great night and despite being exceptionally tired, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
The extra bit – I finally sat at my desk long enough to consider submissions and writing, for the first time in months. I have been busy with shows, festival events, organising and promoting – which is all well and good but sometimes a poet just wants to write. It felt good. Like the cleanse of the first wash after a long-distance trip.
I even managed a submission!
I heard back from Editors, long awaited Leonard Cohen Anthology response and am delighted that my poem ‘Shadow Line’ will be published in Anthem: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen, more news on that soon. I love signing poetry contracts before work, that will never grow old as a brilliant way to start the morning!
I contacted local media/newspapers about WPL (Worcestershire Poet Laureate) and enjoyed a 2nd influx of messages.
Earlier this month there was talk of both a festival booking possibility and a dedicated one off poetry day/event with publishers. Both things came to fruition – and guess what – they are planned for the same day! Of course I will do both!
I had my first headline gig for a while, featured poet at Spoken Trend in Kings Norton (Weds 28th). A great night and plenty of new to the mic poets and first timers at the event. Tom McCann did himself proud and Tom Crossland was the god of memorised words! I thoroughly enjoyed the whole evening. Some fabulous open mic slots, plenty of featured artists amongst them.
One of those nights you wish you could repeat, straight away!
And to complete my month there is a meeting taking place later (30th) about a current project and Stanza this evening, where I plan to take a current project poem along for editing advice!