Category Archives: Readings

The Stay at Home! Literary Festival 2021 – Week 1 – Part 3 #SAHLF2021

Standard

Welcome to the 3rd part of week 1 – these are just snippet reviews from some of my festival experience. Enjoy your bite of SAHLF 2021.

All the featured books can be purchased in the S@HLF Bookshop here.

Friday 30th – Cont’d

Rejection and Building Resilience

This was a fruitful session, as one may expect. I have been writing for 7 years (*I subtract 2019) and in that time have learned the art of resilience. We all experience rejection, my success to rejection is about 50/50 which I discovered is higher than the average. Of course if I sent more work out that would vary, maybe up – maybe down. Generally it stays about the same between a yes or no. I appreciate submitting poetry is different to finding an agent for your book.

I trained as an actress originally and if you want an artform to teach you how rejection feels – become an actress. It stood me in good stead for this life. But it never hurts to hear about building resilience.

For twenty years Jenny Knight kept writing, through industry close-calls and other brutal experiences. She finally secured an agent–but, even then, the near-misses kept piling.

Rejection is a painful, but unavoidable, part of every writer’s life. Join Jenny as she teaches the tried-and-tested methods – from utilising a writer’s “toolkit” to building a community – that have helped her and other writers cope with the inevitable. © S@HLF Programme

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

BIO: Jenny Knight is a prize-winning writer of short story, fiction and memoir and a contributor to Kit de Waal’s celebrated Common People anthology. Her writing on writing and the publishing world has appeared in Book Machine, National Writers’ Centre and Restless. She was selected for Penguin’s WriteNow 2018, a 2019 ACE/TLC Award, is a National Centre for Writing Case Study, has won or been listed in competitions including Bridport, Fish, Arvon, ACE/Escalator, Yeovil, Riptide and SWWJ and published in several anthologies. A freelance editor and copywriter, her publishing clients, including Macmillan, Simon & Schuster and Routledge, and she assesses manuscripts for Jericho Writers. Her agent is Jo Unwin.

She’s also taught creative writing in prisons, for the UN/Comic Relief in Somalia and Kenya, spoken on panels and held workshops about writing, getting agents, rejection and resilience for PrimadonnaFest, Stay-At-Home-Fest 2020 and Litro. She has a degree in English Lit & Drama and studied Creative Writing at UEA. © S@HLF Programme

It was great to hear Jenny Knight’s story – the honesty of failing and eventually coming back to writing, reaching a point where she felt she could try again and hearing the results of strength (that comes from feeling your life has been totally destroyed).

It was interesting to discover the statistics of success rates and to hear Knight talk of rejection as an ‘apprenticeship for our writing’, which makes sense. Any writer who has just edited a manuscript or had to rework a failing one will inevitably write better. You only have to look at a piece of work you did 3/5/10 years ago to see this.

Refreshing to hear someone saying let yourself feel the pain of rejection. And also to acknowledge this pain doesn’t seem to lessen over time or experience, just maybe our learning of how to deal with it.

I could go on, but don’t want to spoil it for anyone who would like to watch the post-festival videos and I would encourage you to do so! Visit the festival YouTube and arm yourself with some new/fresh outlooks on rejection.

Blueprint Poetry Press Showcase

Blueprint Poetry Press, established in 2019, is the brainchild of poets Jo Colley and Julie Hogg. We believe that poetry pamphlets are a thing of beauty in their own right and not just a springboard to a full collection. We publish short, coherent sets of poems which may also include illustrations, from published poets. In 2020, we published Paul Summers (the dreamer’s ark) and Angela Readman (Cooking with Marilyn), and in 2021, Matthew Caley (Prophecy is Easy), Bernadette McAloon (A Queen of Rare Mutations) and Degna Stone (Mrs Stone’s Diaries). © S@HLF Programme

I remember Jo Colley from last year’s SAHLF talking about this new press, so it was great to see this year they were here with poets. This was a reading I was looking forward to, discovering some new-to-me poets.

\slight tangent/

I admire the Press point of view that a pamphlet is a thing of beauty, a body of work in itself. It is true, in 2018 when I submitted my last manuscript, I had been imagining it as my first collection (and there were enough poems to make it so), but I felt the subject matter in such an extended format would feel too relentless.

After careful consideration – it was submitted and published as a pamphlet, Patience, which came out at the tail-end of 2019. I will eventually carve time to update AWF to include it! Patience can be bought here.

Paul Summers – the dreamer’s ark

Paul Summers is a Northumbrian poet & artist who lives at the mouth of the River Tyne. He is currently obsessed with liminals & the littoral, making a daily pilgrimage to the river’s rocky shoreline almost every day since his return from Australia five years ago. His poems have appeared widely in print for almost three decades. A founding co-editor of the ‘leftfield’ UK magazines Billy Liar and Liar Republic, he has also written for TV, film, radio, theatre and collaborated many times with artists and musicians on mixed-media projects and public art. His latest book is straya, published by Smokestack Books in April 2017. Previous collections include: primitive cartographyunion (new & selected) Three Men on the Metrobig bella’s dirty cafe, cunawabi and the last bus. © S@HLF Programme

the dreamer’s ark features three of Paul’s beautiful artworks and is based on his daily walks to the beach, the changes over time. He talked about the magic of fog, this geographic region is not going to avoid bad weather, so it needs to be embraced. He talked about the act of collecting things on his walk and how the house has become filled with these. The affection Paul Summers shows for place was as captivating as his poems.

Matthew Kelly – Prophecy is Easy

Matthew Caley’s Thirst (Slow Dancer, 1999) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Subsequent collections are The Scene of My Former Triumph (Wrecking Ball Press, 2005), Apparently (Bloodaxe Books, 2010); his lost second collection, Professor Glass (Donut Press, 2011); and his fifth and sixth collection, Rake (Bloodaxe Books, 2016) and Trawlerman’s Turquoise (Bloodaxe Books, 2019). His work has been included in many anthologies, and he also co-edited Pop Fiction: The Song in Cinema with Stephen Lannin (Intellect, 2005). He lives in London with artist Pavla Alchin and their two daughters. © S@HLF Programme

Matthew talked about how the poems in Prophecy is Easy were written in a short space of time, in March 2020, he wrote in bursts and how at the time he couldn’t see the pandemic and lockdown in them. For me I was still being carried into more oceanic scenes (here in the Midlands many of us we feel the tug of the ocean, despite being or perhaps because of our geographical distance, we are the furthest distance from the coast of this island)!

The stories behind Matthew’s poems, the reference points were great to hear, as enjoyable as the poetry.

Bernadette McAloonA Queen of Rare Mutations

Bernadette McAloon is the recipient of a Basil Bunting Award and the Flambard Poetry Prize. She works as a creative arts therapist and lives in Newcastle upon Tyne. A Queen of Rare Mutations is her debut poetry pamphlet. Her work has appeared in many magazines: Butcher’s Dog Magazine; Drifting Down the Lane: Art and Poetry Explorations edited by Harriette Lawler, Agnes Marton (Moon and Mountain); Flambard Prize Winners’ AnthologyMslexia MagazineOfi Press Online Magazine; One Planet, Newcastle University’s Alumni Online Anthology; Rowing Home, Cruse Bereavement Care Anthology and The Rialto Magazine. © S@HLF Programme

It was a great reading from Bernadette, her poems cover an array of themes and reach deep levels with ease. History, memory, lives and love all heard in the few poems she delighted us with. Bernadette didn’t talk much about the poems, reading them was enough – allowed us the space around them we needed and they deserved. It was beautiful.

Degna Stone

Degna Stone is a poet and editor living in the north east of England. She shares her home near the River Tyne with her husband, two teenagers and their chihuahua. Her work has appeared in The Book of Newcastle (Comma Press), Ten: Poets of the New Generation and A Mighty Stream (Bloodaxe), Writing Motherhood (Seren), Urban Myths and Legends and Some Cannot Be Caught (The Emma Press), Crossings (Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts) and Filigree (Peepal Tree Press). © S@HLF Programme

Degna’s pamphlet (The Port in the Darkness*) is forthcoming from the press. These poems came from a traumatic experience and hold power beyond words. Unflinching and honest poems, that capture the hopelessness and helplessness of the situation. These were poems Degna Stone wrote without thinking they would be seen/read. To write brutal truths masterfully is extremely hard, this award winning poet has certainly done just that.

*This title may not be accurate, I can’t read half of my scribbled notes from this session and haven’t been able to confirm with online searches.

Writing Happiness Workshop With Elspeth Wilson & Rachel Lewis

In this workshop, we will be exploring how we can write about joy and happiness to develop our own writing and support our wellbeing.‘ © S@HLF

This event was held in partnership with Middlesbrough Libraries and 50% of donations were split between charities Saheliya and Beat.

Saheliya (a specialist mental health and well-being support organisation for black, minority ethnic, asylum seeker, and refugee women and girls in Edinburgh and Glasgow) and Beat (the UK’s eating disorder charity. Their mission is to end the pain and suffering caused by eating disorders.)‘ © S@HLF

Rachel Lewis

Rachel Lewis is a poet, facilitator and editor. Three Degrees of Separation, her debut poetry pamphlet exploring joy in recovery from mental illness, won the 2019 Wordsmith Prize and was published by Wordsmith HQ. She is currently working on a second pamphlet on her Jewish family history. She regularly facilitates writing workshops, and is a member of the Wriot poetry collective and Covent Garden Stanza.

Elspeth Wilson

Elspeth Wilson is a writer, researcher and poet who is interested in writing about health, disability and sexuality. Their work has been shortlisted for Canongate’s Nan Shepherd prize and Penguin’s Write Now Editorial programme. Elspeth is currently working on their debut novel and also regularly facilitates accessible creative workshops. When they aren’t writing or reading, they can usually be found near the sea or spending time with their elderly dog. – © S@HLF Programme

Last year I attended Elspeth’s SAHLF Nature writing workshop and it was great, so when I saw she was doing another one this year, I knew I wanted to be there.

A series of short writing exercises were delivered in turn by Elspeth and Rachel, there were take-aways and future ideas generated and all in a fast paced yet comfortable atmosphere. It was freeing – no pressure.

I felt uplifted by the noticing where we can find happiness and as well as feeling good I got some writing done to mine for threads later.

Look out for Week 1 Part 4. COMING SOON!

The Stay at Home! Literary Festival – Week 1 – Part 1 #SAHLF2021

Standard
The S@HLF programme is extensive (80 events)

Unlike last year I am not trying to bed down for the entire festival… but here are some bitesize clips from some of my festival experience.

MONDAY 26th

Documenting the Past: Neema Shah (Kololo Hill) in conversation with Catherine Menon

Here is an author who proves you CAN come to writing after/during a career, you can write if you haven’t chosen an academic route into it, you can write a book and still work full time (many authors prove this) and you can get a book published (via Agent) within 5 years! Not only that but this first novel was also shortlisted for several prizes.

It was a fascinating conversation both in terms of the book itself and the writing process.

Set in Uganda in 1972, Kololo Hill (shortlisted for the Bath Novel Award and the First Novel Prize) tells the story of one family’s escape. From the green hilltops of Kampala, to the terraced houses of London, Neema Shah’s debut explores what it means to leave your home behind, what it takes to start again, and the lengths some will go to protect their loved ones. © Stay-at-Home! Festival

Neema Shah

S@HLF Bookshop

‘[An] incredible debut’ Stylist

‘Shah is excellent on the theme of home . . . an absorbing storyteller’ Daily Mail

Catherine Menon

S@HLF Bookshop

***ONE OF TELEGRAPH’S BEST NOVELS OF 2021***

‘Supple, artful, skilful storytelling – it takes an immediate grip on the reader’s imagination and doesn’t let go’ HILARY MANTEL

The Scene of the Crime: William Shaw, Rebecca Wait and Nina Allan

This panel was a great discussion between several crime writers looking at how their work addresses similar themes and how it is approached differently. I enjoyed the discussion over various planning (or not) approaches, hearing about research and how their novels developed.

William Shaw

Grave’s End

S@HLF Bookshop

The brilliant third book in the DS Alexandra Cupidi investigations.

‘If you’re not a fan yet, why not?’ VAL MCDERMID

‘A superb storyteller’ PETER MAY

With meticulously realised characters and a brooding setting, Grave’s End confronts the crisis in housing, environmentalism, historic cases of abuse and the protection given to badgers by the law.

Rebecca Wait

Our Fathers

S@HLF Bookshop

A gripping, tender novel about fathers and sons from the highly acclaimed author
A Guardian crime and thriller book of the year 2020


This is a beautifully realised novel, touching on the fallibility of memory and the unknowability of families, and gripping in its intensity. Outstanding’ Mail on Sunday
‘ A spectacular novel’ Spectator

Nina Allen

The Dollmaker

S@HLF Bookshop

THE BEWITCHING NEW NOVEL FROM THE AWARD-WINNING GUARDIAN FRESH VOICES AUTHOR

‘A fantastic book’ Andrew O’Hagan
‘Wholly original – worthy of a modern Grimm’ Andrew Caldecott, author of Rotherweird
‘A masterful and multi-layered haunted toyshop of a novel’ Tony White, author of The Fountain in the Forest

Tuesday 27th

Are You a Leaf or a Tree?

This was an intriguing title for a workshop, that was enough for me to sign up! Amanda White will be known to many of you as the founder of THE DAILY HAIKU, a group which now has over 5800 members. This was a fun creative writing workshop and not only did I produce two haiku but I found lots of surprises writing themselves into my notebook too.

Turns out I’m a leaf from a Canadian Red Maple tree, who knew!

Amanda also posts daily writing prompts on the festival’s INSTAGRAM.

Hidden Gems from Novel Research

One aspect I love about writing is research. One thing I love about Literary Festivals (and the list of loves is long), is discovering new-to-me authors but equally exciting is finding one you admire or have read on the bill! To hear they’re writing a sequel?! How much could my heart take! I was super excited even before this panel started.

I was enthralled by: Kerry Postle’s insight into what is hidden, the historical information Ali Bacon provided us on early photography and the woman behind it all, Heather Child’s delve into Quantum physics and Jean Burnett’s exploration of quirky historical facts.

The programme suggested we would be sure to learn something new and I certainly did – about 4 pages worth. This was a fun session where each Bristol novelist offered us three gems from their research.

All available at the S@HLF Bookshop

In the Blink of an Eye is a reimagining of the life of the Scottish painter David Octavius Hill from the moment of his encounter with Robert Adamson, a pioneer in the use of calotypes – pictures made by the light of the sun – until the day when his great Disruption Painting is unveiled. 

In the words of competition judge Nick Bellorini, “These are exquisitely rendered tales which reveal their truths with all the delicate resonance of the art they celebrate.” © Linen Press

Taking in London, Paris and Brighton, Who Needs Mr Darcy? details the charming, lively and somewhat dastardly further exploits of the youngest Bennet sister. Pride and Prejudice this isn’t, and Mr Darcy certainly won’t be rescuing her this time . . .

‘High-spirited, great fun and full of racket Georgian atmosphere’ DAILY MAIL

‘The plot romps along in this funny and charming novel . . . a perfect book to curl up with as the evenings draw in’ BRISTOL MAGAZINE

WHAT IF YOUR LIFE HAD AN ‘UNDO’ BUTTON?

‘Brilliantly twisty, thought-provoking stuff – such enjoyable reading’ Jenny Colgan

‘A moving time-slip romance . . . The Undoing of Arlo Knott is a triumph’ Guardian

Inspired by a heartbreaking true story, this stunning and evocative novel is perfect for fans of The Sapphire Widow , Beneath a Burning Sky and The Emerald Affair .

Wednesday 28th

I would have loved the workshop with Jen Hadfield, but I had another workshop to attend. I did manage to hotfoot it across to S@HLF in time to see Rachel Bower and Jay Whittaker. Rachel’s readings at last year’s S@HLF were amazing and I was looking forward to hearing more.

Two Poets: Rachel Bower and Jay Whittaker

A great event where we were not only gifted with readings from these two talented poets but also a generous and wonderful Q&A.

Rachel Bower

Rachel Bower is an award-winning writer based in Sheffield. She is the author of Moon Milk (Valley Press, 2018) and a non-fiction book on literary letters (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). Her poems and stories have been widely published, including in Anthropocene, The London Magazine, Magma, New Welsh Reader and Stand. Rachel won The London Magazine Short Story Prize 2019/20 and the W&A Short Story Competition. She edited the Verse Matters anthology (Valley Press, 2017) with Helen Mort and she is currently editing an anthology with Simon Armitage (Faber & Faber). Her new poetry collection, These Mothers of Gods, will be published by Fly on the Wall Press in July 2021.

Jay Whittaker

Jay Whittaker is an Edinburgh-based poet. Her second poetry collection, Sweet Anaesthetist, was published by Cinnamon Press in September 2020. Her debut collection, Wristwatch, was Scottish Poetry Book of the Year 2018 in the Saltire Society Literary Awards. Both Jay’s books are accessible poetry collections on the themes of resilience, grief, living with cancer, family secrets, and LGBT+ lives (including her own). She prioritised her writing after her personal annus horribilis, during which her civil partner died and she started cancer treatment. Her poems are included in the 404 Ink anthology We were always here: a queer words anthology and in the new Bloodaxe anthology, Staying Human.

This S@HLF Jpeg says it all…

Wednesday was so busy I had to rewrite my schedule on a large post it (the almost A5 ones) and cover over the scribble on my diary page. It meant that this wondrous reading was the only part of the S@HLF I managed to get to. It was a great programme of events I missed out on but it brings me joy to know thousands of others didn’t!

Look out For Week 1 – Part 2 COMING SOON!

April 2021 Review of the Month

Standard
Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

Finally, a few weeks off, I plan my first walks this year in nature and some Easter eggs as well as settled down to the extremely long TO DO list and some writing, having missed deadlines for months! When the sun joins us, I shall enjoy the garden and I am looking forward to mornings which start after 6AM! It is also the beginning of the Spring/Summer Festival season and I have an international Book Launch reading, the second one in as many months. Also planning a workshop booked for next month. So lots of busy but also some much needed rest, recuperation and reconnection.

WEEK 1:

NaPoWriMo 2021 kicked off with some great resources. Every year AWF is a participating site and I try to post daily whilst following the month of prompts. I love NaPo and also get some decent poetry from it every year.

I tapered off on events at the end March, mainly due to workload, exhaustion and needing time offline. I proposed to do fewer this month so I could get some work done. The diary still looks very full!

The weekend was full of words. I listened to a panel craft talk from Chicago University ‘Literary Arts Lab’ on long form writing. It was interesting and inspiring with great insight and generous Q&A chaired by Rachel DeWoskin award-winning author of five novels: Someday We Will Fly (Penguin Random House, 2019); Banshee (Dottir Press, 2019); Blind (Penguin Random House, 2015); Big Girl Small (FSG, 2011); Repeat After Me (The Overlook Press, 2009); and the memoir Foreign Babes in Beijing (WW Norton, 2005) and Creative Writer Lecturer.

Ilya Kaminsky, Cathy Park Hong, Julie Iromuanya, Lina M. Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas, Rachel DeWoskin & Stephanie Soileau

Ilya Kaminsky is the author of the  widely acclaimed Deaf Republic (Graywolf, 2019), a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award for Poetry, Poems from Deaf Republic were awarded Poetry magazine’s Levinson Prize and the Pushcart Prize.

Cathy Park Hong is an award-winning poet and essayist …she offers a fresh and honest perspective on race and Asian American identity, discusses how poetry and writing can be a means for understanding ourselves and our world, and comments on the ways politics and culture are influenced by art—and vice versa.

Julie Iromuanya is the author of Mr. and Mrs. Doctor (Coffee House Press), a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, the Etisalat Prize for Literature (now 9 Mobile Prize for Literature), and the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize for Debut Fiction. 

Lina M. Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas is the author of Drown Sever Sing… Don’t Come Back is published by Mad River Books, an imprint of The Ohio State University Press (January 2017). Ferreira is a recipient of the 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award.

Rachel DeWoskin received a National Jewish Book Award, a Sydney Taylor Book Award, an American Library Association’s Alex Award, and an Academy of American Poets Award, among others. Two of her books, Foreign Babes in Beijing and Banshee, are being developed for TV. Two Menus, published by the University of Chicago Press’ Phoenix Poetry Series in 2020.

Stephanie Soileau‘s collection of short stories LAST ONE OUT SHUT OFF THE LIGHTS is forthcoming from Little, Brown & Co. in Summer 2020. Her work has also appeared in Glimmer Train, Oxford American, Ecotone, Tin House, New Stories from the South, and other journals and anthologies… has taught creative writing at the Art Institute of Chicago, Stanford University, the University of Southern Maine and the University of Chicago.

Photo by Magicbowls on Pexels.com

It was the one year anniversary for Food for Thought and we had a special session where we all read a poem written in sessions this year. This group was founded on the principles of poetry for healing and has been an exceptionally important group for me to be part of. I have been attending these sessions since 2020.

We were treated to the delights of Patrice’s playing her harp, readings and even squeezed in a one minute write. An exceptional evening which brought peace, tears and smiles. The emotional connection despite the screens and 1000s of miles between us, amazes me. We are bonded.

Huge gratitude to Judith Redwing Keyssar, Gayle Kojimoto and everybody in this group. What a year we have held each other in.

 Using poetry writing as self-care and explore our feelings, fears, and hopes…

Part of me feels I should have stayed in the glow of this event but I was intrigued to attend the Close Reading in a Virtual Space with Mónica de la Torre. This deep dive into Cesar Vallejo’s “XXXVI” came from NaPoWriMo Day 1 resources. It was an interesting discussion.

I spent most of the Easter Weekend offline reading, writing and researching poems. Rakaya Fetuga’s CARAF Centre Writing sessions have finished but the group enjoyed them so much they have carried on, each taking turns to lead. It was lovely to see them all again on Saturday. I will try to attend as often as I can. On Sunday I attended an event advertised by NaPoWriMo P&P Live Sandra Beasley & Teri Ellen Cross Davis sharing their new poetry collections.

Sandra Beasley is the author of four poetry collections, including I Was the Jukebox, winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize, and Theories of Falling, winner of the New Issues Poetry Prize. Honors for her work include a 2015 NEA Literature Fellowship, the Center for Book Arts Chapbook Prize, the John Montague International Poetry Fellowship, and four DCCAH Artist Fellowships. She is also the author of the memoir Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life. She lives in Washington, D.C.

Find her collection here.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/sandra-beasley

Teri Ellen Cross Davis is the author of Haint, winner of the 2017 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry. She is a Cave Canem fellow and a member of the Black Ladies Brunch Collective. She has received fellowships to attend the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Hedgebrook, Squaw Valley Community of Writers Workshop and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her work can be read online and in many journals, including Academy of American Poets, Harvard Review, and Tin House. She is the Poetry Coordinator for the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. and her new collection, a more perfect Union, publishes this February.

Find her collection here.

https://poets.org/poet/teri-ellen-cross-davis

It was an enjoyable hour listening to two American poets not known to me.

If you missed it you can watch it here.

I spent Monday catching up with writing, being mentored, Beta reading and our final class with Tawnya Renelle where I tried out something completely different to anything I have ever done before! And Cafe Muse with Margaree Little and Joseph Ross.

https://www.margareelittle.com/

https://josephrossnet.wordpress.com/

I had a great night at the Poetry Bubble work on the theme of Freedom after Lockdown (which is still only imagined), saw Holly Wren Spaulding in conversation with Sejal Shah. WLF had SpeakEasy which was a great International night of poetry, I enjoyed Caleb Femi at Manchester Literature Festival.

WEEK 2:

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I was comfortably into my Easter break by the 2nd week of April, madly falling behind with NaPoWriMo prompts, attempting to get some new writing done and trying not to eat chocolate. I took some nature walks and read.

I had the joy of getting back to events with Sheffield Library and enjoyed another night at Poets Cafe Reading. I took part in a great NYC Public Library workshop with Ravi Shankar, one I thoroughly enjoyed. Cheltenham Poetry Festival Launched the Frosted Fire Firsts Prize Winner collections – David Luckens and Lee Potts. It was a wonderful evening. It clashed with ATG Arrival at Elsewhere NYC Launch – which I managed to catch a few readers at. Live from the Butchery was brilliant.

It was also Sierra Poetry Festival, I managed to attend a few events over the weekend.

Despite trying to cut back – I had a full week. NaPo is partly to blame with Live events included as readings this year. Don’t get me wrong I love NaPoWriMo.net and the resources I yield annually are worthy and often incredible, the poetry community embraced the online world at the start of the first Lockdown and it has brought many people joy and solace throughout this exceptionally hard time. It is only right to include online events – it’s just my diary was full already!

In writing this blog post I realised I just missed the John Godfrey NaPo Reading!

I enjoyed Cafe Writers and The Gathering – which Apples and Snakes organised on the back of the successful World Poetry Day events, Workshops with Jack Giaour & Arya Samuelson, Caleb Parkin at the Lyra Festival, the launch of the Poetry Review Spring Issue with and my introduction to the amazing power of Hanif Abdurraqib, a tour of the Emily Dickinson Collection at the Houghton Library and my 2nd workshop with Jericho Brown (which was the same as a the one he presented in last year).

WEEK 3

I finally caught up with NaPo, enjoyed the Lyra Poetry Festival and Seren Cardiff Poetry Festival (now in the 2nd year), I performed at the Walt Whitman Birthplace as part of a spectacular Book Launch. Over 35 poets who appear in the Corona An Anthology of Poems (Edited by Gayl Teller) read, it was well hosted by events director Caitlyn Shea and presented by Gayl Teller. There are some incredibly powerful poems included, as you can imagine and it was an emotional evening.

I look forward to receiving my copy.

I was one of the Guest Readers at Jenna Plewes’ wonderful launch of A Woven Rope. I also enjoyed the end of and then rewatched the whole Bloodaxe Launch with Dom Bury, Jenna Clake & Tishani Doshi. I went to a session about confessional poetry and enjoyed some sessions at the Creative Writing Spring Symposium with the University of Glasgow.

Week 4

I have been busy with a project and Napo which leaves a scant blogging schedule, I will do some Flashbacks for some of the experiences April has offered.

I had a workshop at the Lyra Festival with Malika Booker which came as a great gift/surprise from a friend. It was a wonderful workshop, I met Malika at Ledbury Poetry Festival some about 6 years ago. I have read her work, watch her read and tuned in to some seminar/ Q&As provided by Arts groups in 2020 but had not had the ABSOLUTE PLEASURE of writing under her guidance. Amazing experience! I caught a Denise Duhamel reading — having discovered her work during NaPoWriMo and missed her last 2 readings.


I finished the weekend with the lovely experience of Paul Francis’ book launch for Rescue From The Dark with Fair Acre Press. I will definitely write more as I owe a blog about another of the recent books from Fair Acre. It was a marvellous celebration.

I have attended readings and workshops at The Stay at Home Literary Festival – which is in the 2nd year and last year saved mine (and 1000s of others) 2020 lockdown. I also had the pleasure of Sue Burge’s Book Launch for Confetti Dancers (Live Canon), a Joy Harjo reading – I will never get enough of her work, a Natalie Diaz reading, a reading with Rita Dove and one with Claudia Rankine. A wonderful interview with Elizabeth Gilbert and most recently a wonderful reunion with Andrew Fusek Peters at a Yew Tree Press Showcase. We were treated to his incredible photography in his new book Flight, Imogen Harvey-Lewis treated us to her new books ink illustrated Lockdown experience, the clever use of words in her art really hit the points home, Diana Humphrey read from Remnants her brave new pamphlet touching on her experience of losing her daughter. These words will be helpful to many. And JLM Morton & Susie Hetherington marvellous pamphlet exploring nature which is an incredible product.

A lovely way to complete the month.

Corona: An Anthology of Poems – Launch

Standard

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).

Find the links for the launch and register here.

WWBA is delighted to host a live poetry reading to celebrate the release of “Corona: An Anthology of Poems” edited by 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.   

© Walt Whitman Birthplace Association 2021

The title Corona suggests not only the pandemic but luminous hope.

BUY your copy of the anthology here.

NaPoWriMo 2021 Day 18

Standard

Day Eighteen Click here for full post.

Our featured participant for the day is The Coffee, The Diesel, The Methamphetamine, which provides us with a haunting, rhyming poem in response to our moon-based prompt for Day 17. It reminds me of this poem by Walter de la Mare!

Today’s featured reading is pre-recorded … the poet Eileen Myles, reading in 2015 at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, Texas.

Prompt – this one comes to us from Stephanie Malley, who challenges us to write a poem based on the title of one of the chapters from Susan G. Wooldridge’s Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words. The book’s  table of contents can be viewed using Amazon’s “Look inside” feature. If none of the 60 rather wonderful chapter titles here inspire you, perhaps a chapter title from a favorite book would do?

Happy writing!

© napowrimo.net

PROCESS NOTES:

I read PrimaDonna, the end imagery is strong and better the comment after the poem shows the power of participating in NaPoWriMo.

… she waltzes with the trees.

She rises, falls and drapes her shawl

To filagree the sea.

I read Silver – Walter de la Mare.

Silver fruit upon silver trees;

I read some Eileen Myles poems and watched the featured reading.

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

Since her start reading poetry at famed New York City music club CBGB’s in 1974, Myles has authored over 20 volumes of poetry, fiction, essays, reviews, and stage productions. She has been described as poetry’s rock star, “a lesbian culture hero”, and by Holland Cotter in The New York Times, “a cult figure to a generation of post-punk females forming their own literary avant-garde.” Her literature has been reviewed and lauded by numerous publications, including The Brooklyn Rail, The New York Times, The Paris Review, and Artforum.

Eileen Myles’ notable and influential writings can be found in the publications “Not Me” (Semiotext(e), 1991), “Chelsea Girls” (Black Sparrow, 1994), “Inferno” (OR Books, 2010), and most recently “Snowflake/different streets” (Wave Books, 2012). Her essay “Street Retreat” was part of the Semiotext(e) installation at the 2014 Whitney Biennial, and her essay “Twice,” written for the catalogue of the 2014 Liverpool Biennial, will be the afterword in I Must Be Living Twice/new and selected poems 1975-2013, out from Ecco/HarperCollins in fall 2015.

© Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2015.

I enjoyed this touching, humorous and honest reading. I discovered they read in Ireland in January, wish I had known.

My introduction to ‘poetry’s rock star’ was a pleasure. Their introductions were as wondrous as their work. At the time of filming they had just finished a memoir about a dog – Afterglow (A Dog Memoir). Anarchy demonstrated at their hatred for the requested pedestal was an amusing start. I could have pulled lines from the whole reading, but you should watch for yourselves. I liked many parts of the last chapter they read Just Before and Just After:

/Astral dog memoir/purchasing your book at a library sale/ never go anywhere near a performer after the show, not even a week after the show/… not against the kindle// I like a card/ ancient smell of the library//

I had a look around Stephanie Malley’s website and read some of the poems before going off to follow the link to the chapter headings from Susan G. Wooldridge’s Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words.

I also had a look at Susan’s website – I can’t resist rabbit holes!

Now, with a choice of over 60 titles I thought the next hour would be me and my indecisiveness having a battle of wills, but I read the very 1st chapter heading and that was me done!

Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge Published by Three Rivers Press – 1996

Plus the poem cooking in my head* was going to be added to my amusing cannon (I partially blame my morning with Eileen Myles).

*You can not rely on the oven temperature or mix of ingredients, poems are a law unto themselves and will often turn out how they want to!

By the time I finished today’s poem I also had an idea about what I would like to do with it too, a NaPo BONUS! And I even managed to shoehorn the term ‘poemcrazy‘ in there too! It is one of the longest poems I have penned for NaPo this year, but it did contain some short lines. Definitely one I will go back to.

Here’s an extract:

Unaccustomed to hecklers, other than the odd dog bark,

the poets were wrong-footed for a moment,

I am happy to say my poem pretty much behaved itself and came out along the lines of what I intended – which was just an idea that flashed quickly into my head when I chose the title (and I know we are supposed to discard our first and often unoriginal ideas) but I went with mine. I did gather some Old English insults which are wonderful in themselves and so the Outlaw character very much grew during the writing process, I can visualise him clearly!

Today was a very enjoyable NaPo prompt.

NaPoWriMo 2021 the Halfway Point

Standard

I have spent the 2nd week of Napo trying (and succeeding) to catching up with the prompts and posts, I knew yesterday that in between life bits and online events I wasn’t going to have time to post the 2 week review.

Instead let’s celebrate reaching the halfway point!

CONGRATULATIONS – you are halfway there. You did it! 15 poems? Maybe more, maybe less… no matter, keep going. That’s the real secret of NaPo… keep going!

I am 18 poems in. There are about 8 I really like (nearly 50%) and 3 or 4 which I think have real legs. I look forward to re-reading them all in May and choosing which will follow me into the summer to be worked on.

This week was another brilliantly full week of readings, resources and prompts. As I was desperate to catch up most of this week I did only write one poem for each prompt (unless you include the 2 poems for Day 9 which didn’t earn the ink space), I haven’t saved them to the document with all my poems for Napo, they are not deleted though – no writing is ever wasted.

I am not even going to attempt the maths – by the halfway point we have read loads of poems, discovered poets and resources in bountiful amounts and possibly managed to get to a few events too.

REFLECTION FROM THE HALFWAY POINT – WEEK 2 (and beyond)

This week+1 day, I have written 8 poems, some of them have potential, some took days to make it to the surface, it was a busy week and some stalled on initial attempts.

IF I HAD TO PICK THE BEST BITS…

My favourite prompt(s): Day 10 “Junk Drawer Song,” and comes to us from the poet Hoa Nguyen and Day 14 to write a poem that delves into the meaning of your first or last name. Mark Wunderlich.

Most enjoyable day: Day 10 – not only Jericho Brown but The Doors through the junk drawer prompt. This day took me 2 days to complete and I would have happily continued for days to come.

My valuable resource(s): From Day 13 (posted as a prompt) but one of my now saved places. Sundress Publications. I also enjoyed the 1915 book Spoon River Anthology from Day 8.

Favourite Readings: Day 8 featured reading for the day Denise Duhamel, reading at Arizona State University and Day 10 Jericho Brown reading at the Cuyahoga County Public Library back in 2019.

NaPoWriMo 2021 Day 10

Standard

Day Ten Click to read the full post.

As of today, we are one-third of the way through Na/GloPoWriMo 2021.

Our featured participant today is Ordinary Average Thoughts, where you will find, in response to our “unusual to-do list” prompt, the to-do list of a remote control.

Today’s reading is a pre-recorded event that you can enjoy at your leisure. It features the poet Jericho Brown reading at the Cuyahoga County Public Library back in 2019.

Finally, here’s our daily prompt (optional, of course!). It’s called “Junk Drawer Song,” and comes to us from the poet Hoa Nguyen.

  • First, find a song with which you are familiar – it could be a favorite song of yours, or one that just evokes memories of your past. Listen to the song and take notes as you do, without overthinking it or worrying about your notes making sense.
  • Next, rifle through the objects in your junk drawer – or wherever you keep loose odds and ends that don’t have a place otherwise. (Mine contains picture-hanging wire, stamps, rubber bands, and two unfinished wooden spoons I started whittling four years ago after taking a spoon-making class). On a separate page from your song-notes page, write about the objects in the drawer, for as long as you care to.
  • Now, bring your two pages of notes together and write a poem that weaves together your ideas and observations from both pages.

Happy writing!

Photo by Skylar Kang on Pexels.com

Congratulations – you made it! Double figure days and 1/3 through – well done!

This morning I felt the opposite of yesterday, I think the mind knows weekend. I had meetings and events booked today which kept me as busy as I was yesterday. So once again it was a disjointed, bitesize Napo day. I didn’t have the pressure of writing on my own project today, which was a weight lifted. Parts of today were high intensity – mentally – my walking tally’s still held at 1.

PROCESS NOTES:

The featured participant writes a blog I know/follow Ordinary Average Thoughts, so I knew I was in for a treat and the poem Remote control to-do list didn’t disappoint. A delightful read and a universal experience. The use of repetition for comic effect works well and the stanza which matched my own remote control’s bad behaviour, had me smiling:

4
Fail to communicate regularly
with the set-top box,
so it will ask him “are you still there?”
in the middle of a show
he is actively watching.

The video is 45 mins – I promise you that time will fly but I wanted to properly listen to it so I saved it for later, to watch after the live events I am attending this evening. He reads for 20+ mins and then it’s a Q & A.

Acclaimed poet Jericho Brown won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 2015 for The New Testament, a powerful examination of race, masculinity and sexuality. He’ll join us to read selections from his latest collection, The Tradition, and to announce the winners of the 84th Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards honoring the 2018 books that excel in confronting racism and exploring human diversity.

Previous winners include Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Gunnar Myrdal, Toni Morrison, Marilyn Chin, Sandra Cisneros and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

A native of Shreveport, Louisiana and an English professor at Emory University, Jericho Brown wrote the 14-line title poem included in his new collection The Tradition the year he was in Cleveland. Celebrated for his intense musicality, lyrical clarity and muscular impact, the poet begins “Night Shift” with “When I am touched, brushed and measured, I think of myself/As a painting.” © Cleveland Foundation.

I like Jericho Brown’s work. I found him through NaPo and his Duplex form a few years ago and have watched and read closely ever since. I had a workshop with him last year which was captivating. I am lucky enough to have another one later this month.

Although I know a lot of the poems (mainly from The Tradition) and have watched him read them before, they do not lose power. It is lovely to see him enjoying the audience so much too. A good audience makes all the difference and this crowd harness all the enthusiasm of the State!

I loved Jericho’s honesty. I think one of the attractions of his work and his readings is the soul level/spirit. Here he tells us how this book tried to kill him. How he fell out with it so many times… and this is something we don’t expect, but it is common. The publishing process for poetry can be fairly lengthy so by the time the books are in hands the work is several years old. We work so hard to get published that you would expect us to throw a party and celebrate (which we do as well) but as several points before the book becomes it does try to kill you. You do fall out with it. It does get inside your head. I almost hated the poems by the time they were bound – you learn to love them again, you just need to give yourself a little space. So I think it’s really good to hear this from a poet as established as Jericho Brown. Like rejection this love-hate relationship with our work is natural and normal and something to accept and learn to deal with. I only wish I had heard those words before 2015.

In the Q&A Jericho talks about process, which I have heard him discuss before. I love hearing different ways we all work.

NaPo always introduces me to poets. One of yesterday’s headaches was realising I had missed a reading which included Denise Duhamel, featured in Napo Day 8.

© Cleveland Foundation

Today’s prompt comes from a website that has a wealth of resources for generating more writing and has been added to my resources document.

It’s a great prompt – one I have done before (juxtaposed) but never with a junk drawer and music. The music part on it’s own, yes… recently in fact in our final Experimenting With… class with Tawnya Renelle. I was looking forward to writing this prompt but with such a lack of concentrated time, I just have notes at the moment. The junk drawer is great fun and I will update this post to let you know how it went tomorrow.

PROCESS NOTES for this wonderful prompt can be read here.

NaPoWriMo 2021 Day 8

Standard

Day Eight Click here for the full post.

Today, our featured participant is Uncle Phil’s Blog, where the Shadorma/Fib prompt for Day 7 led to a very funny shadorma indeed.

Our featured reading for the day is pre-recorded, so that you can watch it whenever you like. It features the poet Denise Duhamel, reading at Arizona State University.

Our prompt – I call this one “Return to Spoon River,” after Edgar Lee Masters’ eminently creepy 1915 book Spoon River Anthology. The book consists of well over 100 poetic monologues, each spoken by a person buried in the cemetery of the fictional town of Spoon River, Illinois.

Today, I’d like to challenge you to read a few of the poems from Spoon River Anthology, and then write your own poem in the form of a monologue delivered by someone who is dead. Not a famous person, necessarily – perhaps a remembered acquaintance from your childhood, like the gentleman who ran the shoeshine stand, or one of your grandmother’s bingo buddies. As with Masters’ poems, the monologue doesn’t have to be a recounting of the person’s whole life, but could be a fictional remembering of some important moment, or statement of purpose or philosophy. Be as dramatic as you like – Masters’ certainly didn’t shy away from high emotion in writing his poems.

Happy writing!

PROCESS NOTES: Watch out for the not-really-Rabbit-Holes!

Welcome to the 2nd week of NaPoWriMo! I found today good fun, hope you do too. I started with the featured participant I LOVED the coffee poem, both poems followed form. The Shadorma about family was intriguing – I know the Shadorma was promoted as funny (it can be read this way) < see how subjective poetry is? When I read it – Uncle Pete caused concern and then later in thought perhaps sympathy – the fact we don’t know why he is left out is a little sinister, or perhaps just brothers who have fallen out, there’s lots to unpack for such a short form – clever writing.

Today was a day of 100s of poems! I listened to the Denise Duhamel Poetry Reading at ASU. Denise Duhamel Poetry Reading at the Arizona State University “Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference.”

Denise Duhamel earned a BFA at Emerson College and an MFA at Sarah Lawrence College. Citing Dylan Thomas and Kathleen Spivack as early influences, Duhamel writes both free verse and fixed-form poems that fearlessly combine the political, sexual, and ephemeral. Duhamel has published numerous collections of poetry, including Kinky (1997), Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems (2001), and Ka-Ching! (2009). Her honors include a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work has been included in several volumes of Best American Poetry, and has also been featured on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and Bill Moyers’s PBS poetry special Fooling with Words. An associate professor at Florida International University, she lives in Florida.

It was a great reading, amusing and a fantastic companion to my morning coffee and at 20 minutes more manageable than some of the featured readings offered. The story behind her Sestina to Sean Penn is brilliant! Delta Flight 659 for Sean Penn. I will watch/listen/share this reading.

Photo credit: Gary Lanier

If you want more than 20 minutes of poetry you can let Vimeo deliver the rest of the “Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference” videos to your screen, most of them are from 2012 Conference.

I listened to Sally Ball. – Not exactly a rabbit hole because I wasn’t seeking it – glad I caught her reading though.

Sally Ball reading from “Annus Mirabilis” at the Arizona State University “Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference.”

Sally Ball is the author of Annus Mirabilis, which was selected by Ellen Bryant Voigt for the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize (NY: Barrow Street, 2005). Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Boulevard, Ploughshares, Slate, Threepenny Review, Yale Review, and other journals, as well as in the Best American Poetry anthology. Ball is the associate director of Four Way Books, an independent press based in New York City. In 2007 she was the Margaret Bridgman Fellow in Poetry at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She is an Assistant Professor at Arizona State University, where she teaches poetry workshops, courses in modern and contemporary American poetry, and a literary publishing and editing class. She also offers internships with Four Way Books to students in the MFA Program for Creative Writing.

2012 Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference
Feb. 23-26 • ASU Tempe campus

I also read more of Denise Duhamel‘s poems on Poets.org – again notreally-a-rabbit-hole as it was on the same page as the NaPo link and I have only just discovered Denise today and loved her work. Rabbit Hole in time though. I have stored a few for later.

NaPoWriMo often send gems of ebook resources, I didn’t read all of the Spoon River Anthology but I have saved the link on my NaPo resource list. A free book, always a bonus!

Today’s prompt meant that I returned to the book with a 2nd cup of coffee to read a few poems. I have only ever written one dramatic monologue – they were a popular form here on the spoken word circuit about 5 years ago, especially amongst students studying creative writing. Of course they have been in vogue for years and used by Wordsworth, Browning, Tennyson, Eliot and Yeats, to name a few. They are sometimes referred to as persona poems. I have a background in theatre and drama so at one point in my life knew more monologues than poems. The poetic form is a little different from the dramatic form.

I know this prompt is one I shall start this morning and carry with me before I sit to write it out. Especially as I have my first walk in 2021 Walk in Nature planned before lunch. It won’t be far because of the leg/back recovery but it will be OUTSIDE and although cold the sky is blue, there is no sun and the sun is SHINING! Scarf and boots ready. Also it was around this time last year in the 1st UK Lockdown when I felt brave enough to venture outside of my home range for a walk. I saw three fields over the course of 2020 grow through a cycle that let me know some of our world still works as it did. There are geese, ducks, birds of prey and the hills in the background and in a socially distanced way, my mum (who has been shielding so we have big gaps of time where we didn’t see each other off screen).

The walk was a joy! The sky was big.

PROMPT:

read a few of the poems from Spoon River Anthology, and then write your own poem in the form of a monologue delivered by someone who is dead… perhaps a remembered acquaintance from your childhood, … a fictional remembering of some important moment, or statement of purpose or philosophy.

Read from The Project Gutenberg EBook of Spoon River Anthology, by Edgar Lee Masters.

I only read a few of the poems from Spoon River, Cassius Hueffer explores the idea of people’s idea* of us and our real selves can be different. *I like the idea that it may not be the truthful version of what people think anyway but the gravestone is not the place to write a harsh truth. I know whatever comes in the next few hours will stem from this poem.

Dramatic Monologues:

The basics of a dramatic monologue, demonstrated through the poems collected in the Spoon River Anthology:

Single person speaking/ opinions not necessarily those of poet (assumed character)/ – which creates a distance between the reader and the writer, /it is dramatic (like the theatre- settings/character/conflict) so is spoken to/assumes a listener or is addressed to another character.

M.H. Abrams says; “The main principle controlling the poet’s choice and formulation of what the lyric speaker says is to reveal to the reader, in a way that enhances its interest, the speaker’s temperament and character.”

What came out was a two page poem about a friend we recently lost to suicide. In his voice. Free written, typed at speed. I won’t share an extract but I feel him with me, in my heart.

WOW. Today’s Napo is powerful and not necessarily pleasant in the end, give yourselves self-care if you have written about … or found this traumatic or difficult, this prompt could unpluck a lot of people. Take care. x

Arrival at Elsewhere – Cheltenham Poetry Festival

Standard

I was lucky enough to be at this Reading, hosted by Cheltenham Poetry Festival at the beginning of March (4th). It was incredibly moving and the whole time I was thinking what a powerhouse of a project it was, what an undertaking. Although, in the Q&A Carl Griffin (curator) brushed it off as not being overly complicated. Many of us feel we wouldn’t have known where to begin. He started with a kitchen table and some cut up pieces. Carl looked for pattern and he was certainly able to orchestrate that. It was interesting to hear about the process of the book coming together from the initial idea to the finished product. I am still amazed at the seaming of 100 voices into one book length poem.

Carl Griffin talks more about the process here.

This book is more than a chronical of our times.

Money raised from book sales goes to NHS Charities Together. The link below the book cover will take you to the ordering page. £11.99 incl P&P to UK/ £13.99 to the rest of the world.

You can watch an extract/ film poem by Karen Dennison.

This was originally posted on movingpoems.com

You can read an excerpt from the book here.

As well as sharing work from Arrival at Elsewhere the poets shared some of their own work. George Szirtes treated us, revealing some new poems from his next book.

Abegail Morley

Julian Stannard

John Glenday

Graham Clifford

George Szirtes

Here is the information from Cheltenham Poetry Festival about the event and the Publisher (Against the Grain Poetry Press) promotion.

A reading from the epic, pandemic-inspired book – Arrival at Elsewhere( Against the Grain Press).

Arrival at Elsewhere is a ground-breaking, book-length poem, curated by Carl Griffin, in which poets from across the world speak in one voice in response to 2020’s life-changing pandemic.

Arrival at Elsewhere symbolises the fact that all people, no matter our differences, are equally vulnerable, and this rich and eclectic joint voice is a made up of a multitude of individual experiences.

This book-length poem contains lines from T.S. Eliot Prize winners (Philip Gross, Sean O’Brien, George Szirtes), National Poetry Competition winners (Linda France, Beatrice Garland), and a Pulitzer Prize winner (Yusef Komunyakaa), alongside several newcomers and overlooked veteran poets, and seeks to raise money for NHS.

The book is edited by Carl Griffin. Carl Griffin lives in Swansea, in South Wales. He has written extensively on Welsh poetry and poets, in the form of reviews and essays. Though born in Stockton-on-Tees, in 1984, he has spent most of his life living in each of the Welsh cities, and these are the places that inspire many of his poems.  His poetry collection, Throat of Hawthorn, was a winner of the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize and was published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.

Readers at the event include  Abegail Morley, George Szirtes, John Glenday, Julian Stannard and Graham Clifford.

© Cheltenham Poetry Festival 2021

In this book-length poem, curated by Carl Griffin, poets from across the world speak in one voice in response to 2020’s life-changing pandemic. Not a definitive voice, nor an authoritative one. But a contrasting, contradicting, confused voice, set both in the UK and everywhere else, represented by one narrator who, just like the rest of us, is made up of a hundred different people. A narrator cohesive only in his/her/their contemplation of Elsewhere.

Elsewhere has arrived…

to everyone affected by the Covid-19 pandemic – in aid of NHS Charities Together

PUBLISHER NOTE

When the idea for this book was pitched to us it was still fairly early in the global Covid-19 pandemic. We were all still probably in a state of shock. All locked down, uncertain what was happening – we certainly felt we had landed in a new place. All three of us, like many poets, were unsure how to creatively assess this new situation. That’s why we wanted to support this book. A collaboration of sorts, a creation of a road through all the work of poets who contributed to its making and a maker who has sensitively crafted this winding path of a poem from all our tongues. We are happy to support this work and its intention to support the NHS.

Abegail Morley, Karen Dennison and Jessica Mookherjee
Against the Grain Poetry Press

© Against the Grain Poetry Press 2021

Connect Dudley Reading & Exhibition Launch

Standard

Last Wednesday we held a Reading to mark the Launch of the Connect Dudley Exhibition. It was a pleasure to have some workshop participants with us in the audience and to hear their reactions to the poems. Before the exhibition all the participants received copies of their own poems but hadn’t heard the others. Our source material was deeply personal and it was a true honour to work with the letters produced over 8 weeks of workshops during Lockdown 1.

It also served as a reminder to all about how challenging that time was. Such restriction imposed on our lives (and with good reason), a global narrative, the ins and outs of everyone as they experienced living diminished lives and loss and all the time an undercurrent of gratitude for still being here. For community. For the rallying of strangers.

The UK is currently in the 3rd Lockdown with the hope of gradual reopening over the next few months.

This project began in 2020 with Rick Sanders, it was his idea to bring the community together through writing. The bid was successful and Creative Black Country commissioned the work. A series of online workshops with a Lockdown related prompt were facilitated by Rick. The participants wrote letters to their future selves. The idea was to keep them and open them a year later. In the light of the fact we are still in Lockdown, those envelopes may remain sealed for a little longer! The letters created during this project also work as a social record of that time.

Rick wanted to connect people with an Artform too, so the 8 letters were used to compose bespoke poems as a gift for each participant. The original exhibition idea was to be held in real life. The project has been cleverly adapted to make it feasible during this 3rd lockdown. And as a result has reached over 300 people!

Rick and I were interviewed by CoLab last summer about the process and the outcomes. CoLab also interviewed the participants and lots of their feedback appears in the reported evaluation of the project and on the Launch video and exhibition posters. I was so glad to have this opportunity to work within such a rich community project. It has been a pleasure from start to finish.

I enjoyed the Q&A last Wednesday night, it was great to hear Rick Sanders talk about the other elements of the project. A video is available from Creative Black Country channel where you can find out more about the fantastic work they do.

Thanks to Creative Black Country and Kerry O’Coy.

If you are local to Dudley there is more to come so keep your eyes peeled and in the meantime, take a socially distanced /correctly protected walk to the High Street and have a read or a listen (QR codes – thanks to Overhear) for yourselves. There are 10 poems, so this display will change at some point over the next month or so.

RELATED LINKS:

CoLab Dudley

Connect Dudley Launch Event