Category Archives: Readings

February in Review

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There were many exciting ventures this month including the second festival of the year. This time I had a festival pass (bought in November and reimbursed as a Christmas gift) and I intended to use it – and then use half term to recover.

There were also (as always) clashing events and those I missed out on. The dream of a helicopter, boundless energy and time or the ability to teleport, all somewhat in the future.

Week 1

After the madness of end of month submissions and a 16 hour after work stint on the laptop, the month started with a rare night off (which I mainly slept through of course)!

Then Permission to Speak, the wonderful spoken word event and brainchild of Rob Francis. Everyone was excited about Ira Lightman headlining, unfortunately he couldn’t make it. The night that unfolded was the first (that I know of) without a headline act, swiftly repackaged as a ‘Free For All’ with performers allocated more time. As always we were treated to a wide selection of novel extracts, short stories, music and poetry. It was really enjoyable, relaxing and a great tonic after one of the hardest work weeks I have in a while. We all missed Ira and hope he will be able to book in at the Scary Canary in the future. He really should treat himself.

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I spent my first writing day in a week, writing. I also caught up with family and almost burnt the midnight oil as a result. Two new poems, both need some time to bed down and then be mangled through edits, but I am happy with the initial results. It was a tense morning with an idling brain, so I am glad by the time my head hit the pillow, I had accomplished some work. I also discovered new opportunities, some marked for 2018 and some on my TO DO LIST – more on that in the future, especially if I am successful in my endeavours.

When my head hit the pillow I couldn’t sleep. So I treated myself to a poetry book. There are many in the queue and some were gazumped as I picked ‘Beginning With Your Last Breath’ by Roy McFarlane. I planned to only read a few pages. By page 3 my eyes started leaking surprise tears and by page 17 my breath was caught and I knew I would be reading this story cover to cover… and I did. Jolly glad I did too. I slept well afterwards and will be reviewing his debut collection shortly.

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On Saturday Antony Owen had organised a Peace Vigil at Coventry Cathedral, where invited poets were performing 15 minute sets. I was disappointed not to be able to make it as I had a prior booking in Cheltenham. It looked like an amazing experience and I am keeping my fingers crossed that I can be part of another one later this year. I did have a couple of poems read on my behalf. I think it was one of those unique, special events that would have filled heart and mind to abundant levels and I cannot wait to hear all about it.

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Antony Owen was joined by invited poets: Mike Alma, Josephine Allen, Mal Dewhirst, Jacqui Rowe, Ruth Stacey & Janet Smith.

Antony said of the event it is an event for poetry to act as a witness to current world events and respond in acts of articulated remembrance.

antony-owen-by-mal-dewhirstMal Dewhirst © 2017

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Peace Curtain.

Janet Smith © 2017

Saturday night I missed Hannah Teesdale’s Special Open Mic Event in Birmingham as my brain and body had had a full work out and my little car had already driven to Gloucestershire. Both events had a lot of positive social media coverage and it would have been great to reconnect and catch up with people in Birmingham.

And I FINALLY started to read Ash Dickinson’s latest collection ‘Strange Keys’, which I had promised myself would be my Christmas book. I read three Christmas novels over the fortnight and ran out of snug time with poetry. Have made up for that since. Mr G bought me a couple of books for Christmas and I have spent the first part of the year battling through a novel. Which in concept was perfect and I see why he risked the gift. It was hard going both in terms of subject matter and chronology. Now I am on a book break for a bit unless the book contains poetry. I am too busy to catch more than snatches of time and poetry is perfect for that. I thought I had better read the collection before I see Ash again next week. Then I can delight in him performing from it.

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A conversation we had last month inspired an idea for a new poem that I managed to get to draft form this weekend. If I can work through it I think it will make a good performance poem. I love it when poets and their poetry connect to my mind in such a way that they just sow treasure. Plenty of wealth in my pad ready to go when I have a minute.

Week 2

Was set to be a corker. Poetry Alight in Lichfield on Tuesday night with Ruth Stacey (who I missed at the Cathedral) and Ash Dickinson, HOWL on Wednesday in Birmingham with Bethany Slinn, Sean Cottelli and Luke Kennard and SpeakEasy on Thursday with Matt Windle. Followed by important deadlines and Writing West Midlands.

It was a corker indeed. I had one main writing focus this week and all my spare time went into it, most of Monday, late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning before work. I managed to hit the deadline and now am keeping my fingers crossed.

Poetry Alight celebrated a 5th birthday, Gary Longden hosted an extra night this year to celebrate the 5th and the event took place downstairs in the back bar which was lovely. It was brilliant to catch up with everyone and watch in awe as Ruth Stacey and Ash Dickinson performed their headline sets. See the full review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/10/poetry-alight-happy-5th-birthday/

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I had a great time at Poetry Alight, fully absorbed and inspired to write more poetry and to edit the Funeral Pyre one.

HOWL was my next poetry feast, Wednesday evening. It was great to see lots of people I haven’t seen in a while and to watch incredible sets from Bethany Slinn, Sean Colletti and Luke Kennard. The night was on fire and made me feel like I didn’t want to ever extinguish the flame. Leon Priestnall was celebrating too. Howl’s 2nd birthday!

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Read the full review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/11/when-beat-poetry-howls-howl-8-2-17/

My poetry week was not done there, the following evening I went to Worcester for SpeakEasy, Matt Windle was headlining. The night was raucous fun. A wild enticing whirlpool atmosphere that in the end took everyone with it. Some great open mic spots and Matt Windle blew everyone away. He even brought a tear to my eye, a poem I had heard him perform before,  moved me so much tonight. Again a delight to watch the audience who hadn’t seen him before, enjoy his work. Poet with punch indeed, as I said on social media ‘ a w e s o m e – if you look carefully enough you will find Matt between those letters’. He is this year’s Birmingham Poet Laureate and it is great to see him back on the circuit.

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Read the full review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/12/speakeasy-with-matt-man-windle/

To complete my writing week I worked with Writing West Midlands, Spark Writers Group in Worcester at The Hive, where a new Assistant Writer joined us for a one off session, thanks Mollie Davidson.

I also FINALLY read Fergus McGonigal’s first collection cover to cover. It is a great read and it has made me look forward to his next collection even more. Fergus is back on the Spoken Word scene and I hope to catch him soon. fergus-mBuy your copy here.

http://www.burningeye.bigcartel.com/product/the-failed-idealists-guide-to-the-tatty-truth-by-fergus-mcgonigal

Fergus McGonigal takes Ogden Nash’s notion of a poem being an essay which rhymes and targets the unsentimental truth about parenthood, pseudo-intellectual pretentiousness and pomposity, and what happens when the idealism of youth has given way to the disappointment of middle-age. © 2015 Burning Eye Books

Week 3

Mr G’s birthday, Valentines and the much awaited (since the launch party in November) Verve Poetry Festival. verve-pass Unfortunately the weekend clashed with an event at the Swan Theatre in Worcester facilitated by Ben Parker (Poet in Residence). I am hoping he will do a third event as I had to pull out.

I missed Matt Windle and a plethora of other Laureates at the Artrix on Monday as it was Mr G’s birthday and we were celebrating in Birmingham. There were other events but with submission deadlines and an all immersive 4 day festival at the weekend I felt the need to pace myself this week.

I also missed a night of poetry at Smokey Joe’s in Cheltenham.

Thursday couldn’t come soon enough! After work I made my way into the city on the train and arrived at Waterstones for a perfect opening night of the Verve Poetry Festival.

Read the whole story of the Poetry Parlour with Daljit Nagra and Hit the Ode here.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/17/verve-poetry-festival-opening-night/

I would love to stay in the city, but home really is less than an hour away and I want some book spending money. I want to suggest a poet basement next year though. Sleeping bags at the ready! I had a great night with poetry friends and had to wait less than 24hours for the top up!

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The top up came with a wonderful evening of poetry and a bizarre Dice Slam, I loved the concept of this slam. This is the kind of slam I would feel comfortable entering. You can read the full review of the Readings and Dice Slam here. https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/20/verve-poetry-festival-day-2-part-1-kim-moore-mona-arshi-and-katrina-naomi/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/verve-poetry-festival-day-2-part-2-dice-slam-with-apples-snakes/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/27/verve-poetry-festival-day-3/

The weekend was immensely satisfying for my poetry soul and I will add more links when I have reviewed the events. An exciting opportunity arose from this experience too. I am writing a review for Sabotage Reviews. I have included events which I have not yet blogged about, this is another reason why I haven’t gone mad this week attempting to review the remaining events, that and I finally started work on the house. This needs to take priority this year, I will be busy as I started to organise events to perform at two festivals in January and this month took on some marketing/support for another two festivals.

Week 4

I finally read ‘The Glassblower Dances’ by Rachel McCrum, bought at Hit The Ode in 2014, I am slowly working my way through my poetry bookcase! The good news for you is it is back in print, so you could have a copy for yourselves, if you need more persuading it won the Callum Macdonald Award in 2013.

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http://www.kickingparis.bigcartel.com/ copies are just £6.00. I am hoping to write some proper reviews early summertime, so look out for those. I read some of it on the train to get my mind set for Verve.

A couple of treats to finish the month I was going to 42 in Worcester but I discovered Tom McCann (who hit the scene last September and is headlining in Stirchley next week), started a Spoken Word night in Kings Norton this year ‘Spoken Trend’. Jan Watts was one of the three headline acts and it has been forever since I saw her. She is busy producing her theatre performances of ‘Holding Baby’, widely acclaimed as brilliant and a must see. I headed over to Birmingham and performed on the open mic, alongside some well established poets and then sat back to enjoy the featured artists James Kearns, Clive Oseman and Jan Watts.

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It was a superb night. A definite recommend.

On Thursday there was a slam night in Dudley featuring Emma Purshouse and in Birmingham a reading at Foyles with Roy McFarlane & Gregory Leadbetter (which I had tickets for) and  Wine & Poetry Evening, the second of its type, organised by Emma Press & Cynthia Miller. In the end I didn’t make it to any of them, my car has been poorly for 6 months and is now finally fixed. I spent the day helping family, by the time I hit home it was gone 6pm and I was out of energy and time.

And finally, I mentioned the Nuclear Impact anthology by Shabda Press in my January Review, now it is available for you to buy. It is an amazingly huge collection of poetry and has been a real labour of love for Teresa Mei Chuc. It is available for $25.00 and proceeds will be donated to charity. If you are in America, there are book launch readings taking place all across the country, Philadelphia, New York and in California, check those out.

http://www.shabdapress.com/nuclear-impact-anthology.html

NUCLEAR IMPACT: BROKEN ATOMS IN OUR HANDS
NUCLEAR IMPACT: BROKEN ATOMS IN OUR HANDS $25.00 USD

Proceeds from sales of the Nuclear Impact: Broken Atoms in Our Hands anthology will be donated to the Women’s Center in Downtown Los Angeles. www.downtownwomenscenter.org/
nuclear-impact-front-cover-final-cover-art-on-the-road-to-perilous-by-john-sokol

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There are talks currently for a reading in the UK, I will keep you posted.

I am already organising two festival events for V. Press poets and my next headline is in Manchester in a fortnight, plus I am working on submissions and reviews and in addition to all this am now rallying the troops for another Arts Festival happening in early Summer. Oh, and I may be marketing for another MAJOR festival soon too. So my plate is pretty full and I still have 8 lingering poems from my weekend at the Verve Festival to work on, (as well as a house to sort – note for Mr. G.) and it is back to work, work next week too!

I am happy busy but busy all the same. Blogs posts will be low priority now (with the exception of review posts for Verve and promotional drops) for a while, but there is plenty of historic posting in these waters so go and fill your buckets!

Keep writing!

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Verve Poetry Festival: Day 3 Poetry Breakfast

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

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POETRY BREAKFAST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

RELATED LINKS

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE JUDGES

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

verve-goodreads-anna-freeman © 2017 Goodreads

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

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

© 2017 Dan Simpson (I presume)

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

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

Luke Kennard

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

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

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

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


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

© 2017 Verve Team

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

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

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

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

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

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It was a fantastic second night at the festival.


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

Photography unless otherwise stated © 2017 Waterstones/ Verve Team

Verve Poetry Festival Day 2 – Part 1: Kim Moore, Mona Arshi and Katrina Naomi

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I really wanted to create this post Friday night, but I was too tired. I have had 7AM alarm calls and 36 hours clocked at Verve in contrast to 14 hours sleep over 3 nights. I really wanted to post whilst the adrenaline was my driving force because my memories and emotions are still connected at that point.

Day 2 was another all evening event including: Kim Moore, Mona Arshi, Katrina Naomi, Toby Campion, Vanessa Kissule, Skye Hawkins, Charley Genever and Kareem Parkins-Brown in two separate events, both of which I was really looking forward to.

The programme is amazing and there are so many poets involved. A year in planning and such a smoothly operated inaugural festival… so smooth in fact that some people have mistakenly thought it has been running for years. I keep telling the team what a great job they are all doing and there is the proof! ^^^

I bought a festival pass, but had I been ticketing each event I would definitely have bought tickets for the first 4 events of the festival (Thursday & Friday night).

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We started with a reading from Kim Moore, Mona Arshi and Katrina Naomi, three multi-award winning poets, this event was sponsored by Birmingham City University and introduced by Jonathan Davidson, who also ran the Q&A.

I enjoyed the readings and discovering more about the poets, drawing parallels with my own decisions. I enjoyed them talking about Birmingham and how much the city has changed. I remember when I first came back after a decade away and the whole town had found ‘sparkle’, I lost my way, most of my landmarks and subways had disappeared.

Last time I heard Kim Moore read was at Swindon Poetry Festival last year. Mona Arshi also read at Swindon, which is where/when I discovered her and her beautiful work. I was in a Master Class with Daljit Nagra and wasn’t able to meet her properly or buy her book as we had to rush back to our notebooks.

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Kim Moore read from The Art of Falling, Seren Books. I loved hearing her teaching the trumpet days stories, I know what it is to have 30 children all with violins and at least 8 of them attempting to make the worst noise because the last thing they want to do is play it! Kim and I have both made huge decisions leaving full time teaching to be poets. I really wanted to buy her book in Swindon but I bought so many that I had to draw the line somewhere. I particularly liked ‘All the Men I Never Married’.

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Mona Arshi read from Small Hands, Pavilion Poetry Liverpool University Press. Mona talked about the form used with poems in this collection, the ghazal, originally an Arabic form, her passion evident. She shared ‘Hummingbird’ an early poem of hers that she has stopped reading. She talked about writing about her twins and at the mention of the ‘Jinn Spirit’ a decoration fell down. A lingering line ‘essence of girl darkness…’

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Katrina Naomi was my wild card, my new to me poet. I love festivals for this reason. It was a delight to hear her read. She opened her set with a poem about her mother, which focussed on one of those 70s swimming hats with the flowers all over them. Katrina read from The Way the Crocodile Taught Me also Seren Books.

Listening to all three women sparked inspiration. I am hoping to write some Nan poems, play with some new forms, look at using repetition successfully and probably some poems about boys.

These poets gave us their real insides tonight, I do not just mean ‘spilled guts’, I am talking about the honesty and truth. They could have chosen far less exposing poems to share but they gave us the blade edge.

Jonathan Davidson asked questions at the end and we heard from each poet about how they got into poetry. Mona returned to it during her difficult pregnancy (I returned through illness), Katrina said she fell into poetry by mistake (which is what I always say about teaching) and Kim was squeezing it in around the day job (which is my current transition, although I have graduated  with book ending my week with writing days).

“It’s an exciting adventure.” Kim Moore – on poetry.

“Poetry is transformative. Poetry discovers you, you have to write it. It’s a compulsion.” Mona Arshi

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At the end I planned to talk to all three poets. Which I did. I also bought copies of all three books using Christmas money.

 

RELATED LINKS

http://literatureworks.org.uk/features/katrina-naomi/

Poetry Alight – Happy 5th Birthday!

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I have had a great week of poetry. It isn’t often (anymore) that I go to events back to back, but this week there was a run of three events, none of which I wanted to miss. They were all headlined by poets I know, whose work I know. (Warning: Some Fangirl moments may be included.)

The week kicked off with Poetry Alight, a night hosted by Gary Longden in Lichfield. We celebrated 5 years of PA and were treated to the room behind the main bar where the atmosphere was definitely set to ‘party’. Complete with handmade bunting and delicious interval cakes, this night was roaring. It was great to see poetry friends, some I haven’t seen for a while and those I saw a few weeks ago.

The open mic spots were wonderful. Steve Pottinger and Emma Purshouse treated us with floor spots. I was really looking forward to the headliners – Ruth Stacey and Ash Dickinson. It has been too long since I watched Ruth perform. Her set was amazing. Gary splits the headliners, so we get to hear them before the interval and at the end of the evening. Ash treated us to a mixed set from Slinky and Keys and threw in some new poems too.

I love watching the audience react to poets I know, who are new to them. I love hearing poets perform their words, words that I have on my bookshelf that they breathe ultimate life into. This is where the ‘power’ of poetry begins. The fusion of ideas stirred by the vocal chords that conceived them.

Ruth performed some of her Foxboy poems. This was her debut pamphlet published by Dancing Girl Press and is one close to her heart. Based on real people and real issues faced. It is deeply moving and resonate, even though I have never suffered from issues or opinions of ethnicity I key into the emotions in place in this collection. The wandering and the wilderness. I am glad Gary Longden requested her Bear poem too.

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It was lovely catching up with Ruth and hearing all about what she is currently busy with. There are some people I really miss seeing regularly and Ruth is one of them.

Ash was brilliant too. He has very recently performed in Derby, Burton and Stourbridge so he was endeavouring to deliver a set without repeated material. He had a set list that after his first half he had hardly touched, this relaxed approach (I blame the bunting), worked because we got to hear poems he may not have performed otherwise. I fell in love with his Camden notebook, a work of middle earth art itself. It was a delight to hear some newly penned poems as well as gems from his  collections. I want posters* of his Coffee poem, ‘If I Miss A Coffee’ and Fridge poem, ‘Chiller Queen’ and I love ‘Method Poet’ particularly as I trained as a method actor.

*And I don’t even have posters anymore!

“She never loved me more than when I was a flower.”

 

Ash Dickinson is a writer, poet and comedy performer.

A multiple slam champion- including Edinburgh and Cheltenham- Ash won the BBC Radio 4 Midlands Slam in 2009. In the previous BBC National Slam in 2007 he progressed through the Scottish heats, eventually finishing among the top 8 in the UK. Ash was runner-up in the 2011 UK All Stars Slam.
In the summer of 2011 Ash embarked on a six-date feature tour of Canada, a country where he also performed in 2006 (including the Winnipeg Fringe Festival). He has performed in Australia, the United States and New Zealand where he was invited to perform at the 2002 New Zealand Festival. In 2012, Ash was flown out to both Spain and Jordan for literature events, and in 2013 he headlined a show in Berlin, Germany. In 2016 he was flown out to Prague, Czech Republic to run workshops.

Ash had a four-star rated one-man show at the 2004 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the following year formed part of Scotland’s renowned Big Word during its run there. He has appeared at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, the Glasgow Comedy Festival, the Bristol Poetry Festival, The Larmer Tree, In The Woods, The Wickerman, the Stratford Poetry Festival and The Camden Crawl among many others. He has headlined shows throughout the UK and performed at venues such as Ronnie Scott’s (London), the Colston Hall (Bristol), Oran Mor (Glasgow), Jupiter Artland (West Lothian), Stowe House (Bucks) and The Jazz Cafe (London). He has shared bills with many national and international poets as well as comedians such as Frankie Boyle, Miles Jupp and Andy Parsons.

Ash has been widely published in newspapers, magazines and poetry presses. He has compered busy cabarets and music nights, performed at private and corporate functions and supported bands. He is in heavy demand to run poetry workshops. His media appearances include BBC Radio, The Times, The Scotsman, The Guardian, Metro and Sweet TV.
Ash’s debut collection, “Slinky Espadrilles”, was published in 2012 by Burning Eye Books. His follow-up, “Strange Keys”, was released in April 2016.

Ruth Stacey is a writer, artist, and lecturer. Her debut collection, “Queen, Jewel, Mistress”, was published by Eyewear July, 2015. Her pamphlet, Fox Boy, was published by Dancing Girl Press, June 2014. She designs the covers for V Press poetry pamphlets and was part of the Vaginellas; a collective of female poets re-imagining classic forms of poetry.

Carolyn Jess-Cooke wrote of her debut collection thus : “The significance of this book (Queen, Jewel, Mistress) as a work of art, however, is in its reclamation of history from the female perspective. That the poems themselves are brilliant, almost all of them adroitly executed, makes me want to stand up and give the book a round of applause. There is mastery here, boldness, and a lively assertion of what poetry can give to the historical imagination. This is a book that deserves widespread acclaim.”

Gary Longden © 2017

It was a fantastic night and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I liked being described as a poet on the great conveyor belt of Worcestershire’s talented poets and the whole event inspired me to get scribbling new material. The cakes were gorgeous and to top off the wonderfulness that was Tuesday evening, Ash bought a copy of Fragile Houses. Beam.

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January in Review

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typewriter-1227357_1280 2017 started well with lots of diary dates, events and writing time. Of course it was also back to work after a fortnight (unpaid) break. Much needed. I made it back to Ludlow to support Claire Walker who was one of the Headline poets alongside Matt Black. A little like not realising two years had passed since I last watched Ash Dickinson perform, I cannot believe a year has passed since I last went to the Poetry Lounge in the Sitting Room! This time warp has to do with working for 18 months on Fragile Houses I think. Months slip by fast and the first thing that has to go when you shackle yourself to the desk to write is faraway events.

Week 1:

Poetry Lounge in the Sitting Room with Jean Atkin in Ludlow, it was lovely to see everybody again and I hope to make it back before 2018. Matt Black (who I first years ago at a special event we both performed at The Ort in Birmingham  (2014), more recently we shared the floor in Birmingham at Stirchley Speaks (my Headline, back in October). headline-stirchley-speaks-oct

He was entertaining and as we had all had a conversation about vegetarianism on the journey over, apt poems in his set made us giggle.

Claire Walker was amazing, I do not think I will ever tire of hearing her perform from The Girl Who Grew into a Crocodile. She also treated us to some new poems from her next pamphlet collection.sitting room

I completed a lot of research for current writing projects and groups. I also completed a collaborative project set up in December and worked hard on submitting poetry. I had fun writing about Leonard Cohen and am keeping my fingers crossed that the editors will enjoy the results.

I missed Buzzwords in Cheltenham.

Week 2:

In December I submitted to 7 places and the rejections rolled in from 3 of them this week. We all learn to handle this but one publication in particular was dealing with a subject close to my heart and it made me a little glum that they hadn’t taken my work. They did send feedback including details of the process that the poem they nearly took went through. I will not be perturbed. Another rejection cited that the pieces weren’t best fit this time but encouraged resubmission.

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Back in 2015 I had three poems accepted for an anthology by Shabda Press on Nuclear Impact. We all signed contracts in 2016 and it has been a real labour of love for Teresa Mei Chuc who has now got the project to final proof stages. All proof read and returned and I cannot wait to see the result. The readings are all taking place in the States but I am currently looking at the logistics of video performance.

The cover has been revealed featuring the Artwork of John Sokol. Cover Art: “On the Road to Perilous” nuclear-impact-front-cover-final-cover-art-on-the-road-to-perilous-by-john-sokol I could write more poems just from a glance. This book will hopefully be in our hands later this year.

I went to SpeakEasy – where Brenda Read-Brown was headlining and what a set she treated us to. New work, powerful work, emotive (I nearly cried twice), honest and filled with passion. I was really glad that I was able to make it and witness such a performance.

I shared some new poems and gave Fragile Houses a rest, most of Worcester have bought it already and as I headlined last month and read most of it and as the last poem in there was written in 2015, I fancied sharing something newer.

I went to Stanza although I was so tired I was not much use to others and the poem I had written half an hour before leaving didn’t quite work. I do not see the point of taking perfectly polished work to groups – unless perhaps it’s a poem that has been unsuccessfully submitted a few times, in which case new eyes are good. However, I need to give my writing a chance to sit and simmer for a bit so perhaps I should try this year to get a poem ready the week before. Give it some breathing space. It is hard when you feel so attached to something, too vulnerable.

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Sadly at the weekend I said goodbye to Sally Grainger who has been my Assistant Writer for WWM Spark Writers group for the past 9 months. We had a full house for her final session and ran a great group on Scriptwriting. It was fun. I am sad to see her go.

I received exciting news about a new Literature Festival which I am currently organising a showcase/event for.

Week 3:

I spent my time mainly at work, in spare hours I was organising the festival event, missing deadlines, proof reading and writing comic poetry.

Last year I was invited to take part in a one off (now to be repeated as it was so successful) Baldy Poems presents Kings and Queens of Comedy in association with WLF (Worcester LitFest). I love the idea that WLF are fundraising via event charge at one off events throughout the year to help fund/pay for the summer festival. It is a great idea and I have loved the events that have popped up so far.

I was honoured to be one of the 6 performers (we had 8 on the night with Kieran Davis and a Special Surprise Guest joining us). I have only written about 5 funny poems and the two I had ready for this event have not seen the light of day since 2015, so I decided to emulate BaldyPoems style and kick out 6 new ones. That and I needed the material to cover a 10 minute set. More on this later.

I missed David Calcutt at Smokey Joes in Cheltenham – Poetry Refreshed and sadly I missed Clive Osman’s Waterstones book launch for his debut collection ‘Happy’. Both nights looked to be good. I had taken on extra work and with a gig Thursday night and Friday needed to sleep.

After almost 2 weeks of working full-time, I finally finished on Thursday at 5:30 and then headed over to Birmingham with Mr G and a friend, in birthday celebration mode. We went to see THE BLUE AEROPLANES at the Hare and Hounds (where UB40 played their first gig) and it was exceptional. I am so glad that I was filled with the charm of performance because it set me up for the following evening for Kings and Queens of Comedy.

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I was so nervous – worried that the audience wouldn’t find the dusted off material funny, But I forgot the universal appeal of my moustache poem, the magic of proto-type props and the delight of people who have never heard this one before. It was also funny because people who know me know that I am funny, I just do things that amuse people as I have no logical bone in my body and I have a quick, dry, wordy wit… in fact there was a turning point once upon a time between poet and comedian. The world breathes a sigh of relief.

Anyway because a lot of people now on the scene weren’t back in 2014 when I played the clown a little more, they didn’t see me as a funny poet and were quite shocked at the billing. There are now at least two people who will never take me seriously again!

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To read a full review of the evening click here

And then I had a well deserved weekend off to catch up with Mr G and writing.

Week 4:

Saw happy news and my first acceptance of 2017. That collaborative project I mentioned earlier was with Claire Walker. The result was a meeting about prompts, shared ideas, word lists and after writing editing together. After a few weeks we had a poem written by each of us from working with the other and a joint poem written line by line. The acceptance was a the poem Claire Walker wrote called ‘The Puzzle of an Ending’, a beautiful title and a hard hitting poem. It was the strongest of the collaboration.

It delights me that it exists because of an opportunity I found and a risk I took (asking another poet to partner me and risk rejection, that lack of self-belief/inner critic we all have to deal with). Fortunately, Claire was only too happy and we enjoyed this rather intense poetry pocket in our otherwise Christmassy/family orientated holidays. There will be more to come. And I am doing something here I first dreamed of in 2014. Happy.

I spent the night, along with many poetry friends at the Kitchen Garden Café, Birmingham for Jacqui Rowe’s ‘Poetry Bites’. The featured poets were David Calcutt & Claire Walker (fellow V. Press poets) and Jacqui announced (which most of us already knew) that they are going to publish her first collection this year too. Her ‘Ransom Notes’ was the first pamphlet of the run in 2015 from the round I applied successfully for in 2014.

ransom Poetry Bites was a packed out night, it is so sad that this is Jacqui’s final year, but it is a phenomenal achievement to have hosted and supported such an abundant amount of poets over the years. The atmosphere was great and there were some top class floor spots as well as a V. Press collective, Kathy Gee was also reading from her collection Book of Bones.

I really enjoyed reconnecting with Brumside poets I had not seen in a while, as well as listening to some inspiring and thought provoking sets.

Maybe it was the double dose of Americano coffee, or the Kitchen Garden cake… I came away buzzing and refuelled with an extra layer of poet-y energy!

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I wrote new poems for Burn’s Night, which was celebrated at 42, in Worcester on the 25th. I even made a badge – Lewis tartan, of course. I have thoroughly enjoyed finding out more about this 18th Century rascal. It was a great night, intimate and full of heart – but not lungs or liver (haggis pun)!

I missed a workshop with Ash Dickinson, that had I not been performing in the Quiet Compere/ Wolverhampton Literature Festival the following night, I may have tried to get to. It was just a little out of range geographically and no way I could have got myself there on time after work without the help of a helicopter and pilot… neither of which I have. Oh, to be a rich girl! So I just have to brush away the disappointment and hope for another opportunity in the future.

This brings us to the finale of the poeting week – the first literature festival to be held in Wolverhampton and a great line up of events across all genres. I was lucky enough to be one of the ten poets on the bill for Sarah Dixon’s Quiet Compere Event at the Art Gallery on Friday evening.

What an evening it was. Fabulous line-up, including two poets who are new to me (always a pleasure), Tom McColl & Gerry Potter. What a venue, the room was majestic and had one of the best backdrops to poetry I have ever seen. The setting was incredible. It was a wonderful night and I was still buzzing the next day. You can read the full review of the event and find out more about the performers here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/01/28/quiet-compere-wolverhampton-literature-festival/

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I got home to find emails about up and coming books and spent a while chatting to the other buzzing poets online. A fine night.

walsall-arboretum I finished my weekend at Open Poetry at Walsall Arboretum with David Calcutt and an amazing number of poets on Sunday. Despite the horrible rain, bad driving conditions and leaving a ton of work on the To Do List, I headed out for some poeting fun.

It was a great couple of hours, lots of moving and humorous work was shared. I met some new poets and saw John Mills, who had battled the unnavigable roads of Walsall to experience David’s event for the first time. walsall-arb © 2016 Walsall Arboretum

Then I spent a horrendous amount of time sorting out unread and unmanaged emails instead of completing applications which I now need to do tomorrow after work. There are lots of deadlines in the next 72 hours and I plan to hit them all.

Wolverhampton Literature Festival finished with a Poetry Slam that Nick Lovell won and Willis – a.k.a Rick Sanders came 2nd and Rob Francis, 3rd. Well done, boys! An all male sweep. I was sad not to be able to go to the festival this year. Other plans had already been made. Hopefully they will do another one next year.

The Extra Few (Writing) Days

Mainly spent Monday night at the computer pulling a 6 hour shift (after a day at work), writing new material, researching, organising events, writing applications and submitting. There are so many end of month submissions and I have been busy enjoying myself and thinking the end of the month was a while away yet and here we are. I am pleased that I have managed a few more submissions as I have not been keeping the resolution of weekly output, as advised by another poet.

Obviously there is a certain amount of selectivity both in terms of material, feel, attitude, time etc. My aim is for monthly submissions, which should be entirely achievable – as the months missed last year were to do with the final editing process of the pamphlet.

I will spend the final day of the month (in the evening, after work) getting productive with my next To Do List and making final submissions too.

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There are so many exciting things planned for February already, I can hardly believe we have reached the end of January!

I hope you had a good one, filled with spirit and joy …. oh and writing!

 

The Quiet Compere – Wolverhampton Literature Festival

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

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

THE QUIET COMPERE

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

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

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

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

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


All photography © 2017 Sarah Dixon

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

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

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

Then it was my turn Nina Lewis.qc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which after more from Sarah was started by Heather Wastie.

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

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

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

Jess Davies followed.

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

Kathy Gee was next.

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

The Suite for the Fallen Soldier

http://suiteforthefallensoldier.com/

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

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

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

© 2016 Artfund.org Artfund

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

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

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

RELATED LINKS:

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

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

Fragile Houses The Book Launch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Official Launch Photographs were kindly taken by Bernard Davis.

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Here is my post-launch social media message;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Festive Offer 3: The way home

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

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

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UPDATED

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

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

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REVIEW OF NOVEMBER

Week 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mr G. and I went to another big gig.

 

Week 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“One of the most vital and vitalising literature organisations in the country”
Andrew Motion
The Laureate’s choice 2016, picked by (of course) Carol Ann Duffy.
The four winning pamphlets are:
Geraldine Clarkson’s ‘Dora Incites the Sea-Scribbler to Lament’
Zeina Hashem Beck’s ‘There Was and How Much There Was’
Mark Pajak’s ‘Spitting Distance’
Tom Sastry’s ‘Complicity’
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I am lucky enough to know Tom through Jo Bell’s 52 project (2014) and have met Geraldine a few times since this new life started in 2013, although this was the first time we had properly met for some time. Nice to be remembered though.
It was wonderful to meet Mark and always good to expand the world of known poets, he was smashing to talk to and I will remember his early morning running and the bear. When in the states (Yosemite), 2015 I had a running mantra ‘Let me see a bear, let me be at a point of safety’… I did see a bear and her cub, I was on one of many transport buses at the time (thank goodness) – as up close and personal as I wanted to get!
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Zeina’s video performance from Dubai kicked off the evening, impressive, soul-driven poetry and from there we enjoyed a live set from the PB poets. It was a pleasant evening and they have since celebrated again in Bristol and I have only heard good things about that event too.
There is currently a special offer – just in time for Christmas – you can buy all 4 pamphlets for just £20.00
‘Geraldine Clarkson’s poems are musical, often playful incantations that delight in the power of words. Formally inventive and vivid with natural imagery.’ – Carol Ann Duffy
pb2© 2016  Robert Harper
Zeina Hashem Beck’s ‘There Was and How Much There Was’
‘Whether drawing on myth or fairytale, or writing directly from women’s experience, these are powerful poems by a new writer with a remarkable gift for storytelling.’  – Carol Ann Duffy 
‘Mark Pajak’s skilful poems keep themselves open, especially to childhood and adolescent experience.  Even so, they are far from frail – their insight and imaginative verve make them robust as well as eloquent.’ – Carol Ann Duffy 
pb4© 2016  Robert Harper
‘Tom Sastry navigates the mysterious everyday in this honest and often funny collection, making friendships and love affairs new and strange.’ – Carol Ann Duffy
pb3© 2016  Robert Harper
Mark also won the Bridport Prize this year with ‘Spitting Distance’.
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After this event I rushed to the other side of Birmingham to perform from Fragile Houses, my own pamphlet at Spoken Word at the Ort. It was a fabulous night, run by Debbie Aldous. It always feels like coming home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Week 3

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cup Prize winning treats – unexpected and beautiful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Week 4

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

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

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

Suz Winspear & Mogs performing – photography Charley Barnes

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

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

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

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

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

Siobhan and Cheryl even sent us away with goodie bags!

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Review of October

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Review of October

Week 1

Following advice I was trying to not be too busy pre-book launch but after a week off events I took my writing group for Writing West Midlands, watched all the poetry coverage on BBC2, missed another writing deadline and decided that I would drive to Cheltenham to Buzzwords and catch David Clarke and Cliff Yates (another new-to-me poet).

Buzzwords was great, I realised I hadn’t been for over a year. I had a fabulous evening and do not regret it, despite it being the night before my launch. I read my latest poem – a work on tribal philosophy and have some poetry drafts from the workshop to work on when I get a chance (Christmas holidays maybe).

I had imagined I would spend Monday getting ready for the evening – but in reality I missed writing deadlines, overslept, did everything I could to reduce the nervous anxiety of what if no-one turns up and finally at about 2pm started to get organised.

I am going to write a full post about the launch and some follow up posts about the organisation aspects, as there is a gap of relevant information in this area.

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Waterstones Book Launch for Fragile Houses in Birmingham with Guest Readers – Roy McFarlane, Antony Owen and Claire Walker. It was a cracking night, the next morning I woke up to go to work and it felt like a dream.

The following evening I headlined at Stirchley Speaks. I have been headlining since Autumn 2014 but this is the first time I had a book to sell. I did leave home without them and had to turn back to grab the bag, I knew there was something I had forgotten. Since this night I have started using a large event handbag and always carry a couple of copies.

Stirchley Speaks was a great night and I sold lots of books, I realised at this point I had underestimated how many I should order. Taking advice from Jane Commane back in 2014 who said that audience doesn’t necessarily convert to readership. I was aware not everyone I know will buy the book. I have a list of people who want a copy next time I see them too.

It was good to catch up with everybody in the P Café and it was an incredible night of poetry.

The next day I contacted my publishers and ordered another box.

I hadn’t submitted any poetry for a while and had news of one of my poems being published in the USA. More on that when it happens.

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I treated myself to an evening off and a little rest before National Poetry Day, which is fast becoming one of my favourite dates on the calendar.

I collected my new batch of books and went to Suz Winspear’s NPD event in Worcester. As Worcestershire Poet Laureate, Suz is working hard this year in the city and found a brand new venue for the NPD Event. Berkeley Almshouses was the venue and some of the residents came to enjoy the event. It was a great evening and the old chapel had fabulous acoustics and suited Suz very well.

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This year’s theme was messages and I certainly sent a few texts whilst trying to track down the entrance to the venue. Great sets from everyone and I got to catch up with Math Jones (up from London) and Ruth Stacey. I even sold a book!

I spent the weekend Fri- Sun at Swindon Poetry Festival, it was 2nd year there and much as I loved it last year, this year was EVEN better! It deserves a full post and as I pretty much did everything on the programme, will certainly need one. A great way to finish an exhausting, fantastic week in my poetryskin!

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Other great news was Matt Windle became Birmingham’s new Poet Laureate and by the end of the week I had sold over 50 copies of my book!

 

Week 2

Started with a recovery day. I started to create Poetry Films, something I have got hooked on. Last year Sarah Leavesley kindly tutored a group of us in the art of production and I was inspired by the Poetry Films I had seen at Swindon. There are several poems in my pamphlet that I will rarely perform. These are all now Poetry Films.

On my recovery day I spent some INKSPILL admin time and rehearsed a set for Licensed to Rhyme. Roy McFarlane was headlining. It was a great night and I was allowed to sell my pamphlets, they had a table and everything.

The next evening I went to Ledbury to the Poetry Salon where Deborah Alma was reading and finally got a copy of her book, ‘True Tales of the Countryside’, a beautiful Emma Press pamphlet. deb-alma2

I unexpectedly performed in the open mic section. Fragile Houses reached Ledbury. It has since reached Palestine, Malta, Holland and Australia to my knowledge. It was a wonderful, rich evening and great to see Ledbury folk again.

This week was also Birmingham Literature Festival and due to work commitments and events was the first time since coming back to writing (2013) that I missed it. The night after Ledbury Liz Berry and Benjamin Zephaniah were performing and also Gregory Leadbetter had his book launch for ‘Fetch’ (Nine Arches) at Waterstones, Birmingham with Angela France and Jo Bell reading.

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© 2016 Nine Arches

I was gutted to miss both these events but with working and poeting I had no energy and if I remember rightly was asleep as soon as I had finished tea.

The following night Luke Kennard was performing in Birmingham and I missed it because it clashed with SpeakEasy, where I was already performing. Roy McFarlane was the feature and it was a joy to listen to him twice in one week.

Fragile Houses received a Chez Nous Review which I was delighted to discover came from Gram Joel Davies. He actually chose some of my favourite foods – go and have a read.

http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/chez-nous-recommendations-for-fragile.html

By the end of the week I was run down with illness and missed Holding Baby a play by Jan Watts and the rest of the Book to the Future Festival (again for the first time since 2013). I hope to catch the show another time, I have heard nothing but good things about it.

It was great to finish the week with a Madhatter Review http://www.madhatterreviews.co.uk/books–e-books.html

 

Week 3

Fragile Houses has positive reviews on Amazon and Good Reads.

I was asked to do something that I am really excited about, more on that next year. I spent days preparing for INKSPILL in shifts of 8 – 12 hours.

Mr G and I went to London to see Woven Hand.

I was too tired to manage Hit the Ode and Smokestack Poetry Evening event clash), both in Birmingham, both top nights. I also missed the Dylan Thomas Festival, running for the first year in Cheltenham. Unfortunately it clashed with INKSPILL this year.

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I signed up to an online course ‘Arts for Health’ and performed poetry for ‘She Speaks Her Mind’ Woo Feministas – alongside Suz Winspear, Charley Barnes, Claire Badsey & Holly Magill.

Then of course it was INKSPILL with Gaia Harper, Roy McFarlane and Deanne Gist. This was the 4th year for us and it was a success. I already have Guests and plans lined up for 2017.

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The Magnetic Diaries – which I saw in it’s infancy in Hereford last year was on at the MAC and although I couldn’t make the show I did make Sarah Leavesley’s workshop ‘Pain to Poetry’. I have some poetry notes and one poem so far from this and it was a challenging (emotionally) but not unpleasant experience. I also got time to reconnect with many poetry friends I have not seen in a while.

 

Week 4

I spent the early part of the week writing. I entered a few free poetry competitions. I took some bookings for next year and exchanged pamphlets with J.V Birch through the post. She is a childhood friend, now living in Australia and has also become a poet at the same time as me. It has been exciting to map and mirror each other’s journeys through this new world.

I dressed up for Halloween as a ‘Cereal Killer’ and went off to perform at the Halloween Special 42 in Worcester. Where (due to the wig) people didn’t recognise me. It was a fabulous night and a great excuse to dress up. Fantastic sets from everyone.

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photos by Liam Cortintias

The next day I had to do my best to get all the make up off and go to a workshop run by Angela France, the theme was Fairy Tales and I had a thoroughly enjoyable day and even sold a few books.

I listened to poetry on Radio 4 and missed my Stanza meeting to take part in a Charity Quiz night. All teams of 8 and due to circumstances we ended up with just 4 in our team. We were going for the Booby Prize but decided it was hard to share a bottle of wine and so started to get answers right. We came in 5th not too shoddy, somewhere in the middle. Over £1000 was raised for MacMillan.

I hoped to go to Lania Knight’s workshop, having missed her last one due to a crash on the motorway, but this weekend we celebrated a special family birthday.