Category Archives: Readings

March in Review

Standard

March felt like a funny old month. The start of the month was rocky, the usual dips and peaks were replaced with a fairly big dip, which fortunately finished mid-March, the end of the month was full of highs and gathered rollercoaster speed, positively hyperactive.

I missed out on many events I wanted to attend due to lack of time, transport and energy. My writing schedule was full and I continued to work on organising festival events as well as time spent making exciting applications. Keeping my fingers crossed.

In addition to this – we have AN EMPTY ROOM, I managed (finally) to sort the smallest bedroom which is our first redecoration project in the house Mr G and I moved into the year I returned to writing (2013). If I wasn’t writing, I kid myself that we would have finished the entire house by now. But the thing I look forward to the most is nesting new writing spaces! The room has now been empty and awaiting action for three weeks, but in that time Mr G has transformed the front garden (much to the pleasure of the neighbours) and bought a sander in preparation for the next epic challenge- actually doing the room!

WEEK 1:

fragile-houses-best

V. Press collections: Career in Accompaniment by Alex Reed, Book of Bones by Kathy Gee, Fragile Houses by Nina Lewis and The Old Man in the House of Bone by David Calcutt, with illustrations from Peter Tinkler were reviewed by Sam Smith. You can read the full reviews here http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.co.uk/

Sam Smith – Reviews in The Journal. http://thesamsmith.webs.com/

It was the final Permission to Speak on the 2nd, headlined by Pete the Temp (who I first saw at Verve).

Pete the Temp is a poet, educator and musician. His work has been featured on BBC radio and TV and in 2009 he became the National Poetry Slam Champion. Pete has toured theatres across England with his one man show ‘Pete (the Temp) vs Climate Change’. In 2015 he completed the MA Writer / Teacher Programme at Goldsmiths University. This led him to become one of the world’s first full-time spoken word educators to be embedded in a secondary school. He later went on to pilot the same work in a primary school. He was subsequently invited to do a TED Talk on the subject ‘Why Every School Should Have a Spoken Word Educator’. Pete has toured all over Europe with his art and now works as a poet and street performer. Rob Francis © 2017

We are all gutted that this event (of 2 years) has come to an end. The venue – which is one of the most amazing spaces I have had the pleasure to perform in, is closing. Rob Francis is extremely busy with writing and lecturing, maybe these things are sent by the universe as the timing seems right to free Rob up for other opportunities. He also got engaged recently, so I suspect there will be a busy non-poetry element going on in his life soon too. Fortunately I was tipped off just before the night kicked off, otherwise I would have been in floods when Rob announced it to the packed out room.

As always, it was a good night with an eclectic mix of open mics, poems, stories and extracts. It was fantastic to watch Pete in action again and I enjoyed his set immensely. Several lines have become ear-worms over the past month. I had an interesting conversation with him afterwards about poetry. You cannot help but be swept away on his passion-wave of enthusiasm.

Sadly I missed out on watching him perform again at the Artrix this week as I had a gig in Manchester the next day, work and lots of submission deadlines. If you get a chance to see him, you should grasp it for sure! ‘Keep it Lit!’

RELATED LINKS:

http://www.petethetemp.co.uk/

http://burningeye.bigcartel.com/product/numbered-boxes-by-pete-the-temp-bearder

numbered boxes People who have read this collection rave about it – it is on my list to buy.

I spent the majority of writing time organising, I am currently organising three events for festivals which is keeping me busy.

I also had an opportunity to create work for Mental Health Awareness Week (May). Sarah Leavesley has, for several years posted poetry related to Mental Health during this week. ‘The Magnetic Diaries’ deals with these issues and last year you may remember I attended a workshop at the MAC which was part of the Magnetic Diaries Tour. Sarah mentioned back then that we could share our workshop poetry. As with lots of things at the moment it fell into the ‘to do’ pile. My main focus currently is the house, promoting Fragile Houses and organising festival events. Anyway, long story short, I did eventually manage to create a new poem from the workshop and another written especially for the blog project. More on this in May.

I had a request for a poem and spent the weekend working on editing and writing. I have found this month that I am very last minute. I discovered a submission opportunity the day before deadline (always a challenge) and more recently discovered an entire festival I had missed, a great shame as there was a workshop I would have loved to have attended.

WEEK 2:

The week I forgot to live… so many events missed. I felt the dip this week – my body/mind reacts by sleeping. I spent my writing time beavering away at schedules, organising festival events and generally needed sleep before bedtime. I did wish to be a busy poet and I guess I didn’t consider that I would need to be grown-up with scheduling or with reacting to the events I miss. Be careful what you wish for!

I missed Stirchley Speaks, Headlined by Tom McCann, Steve Pottinger was performing in Ludlow at The Poetry Lounge, I missed Howl – there was a new event in Cannock – Speaking Out Midlands, where all performers were open mic, allocated 10 minute slots. Charlotte had invited me some months ago and then word was spread on social media and it attracted a great crowd and I have read some rave reviews.

It clashed with SpeakEasy and when I discovered Adrian Mealing (who I have not seen for years) was headlining, I knew that I was going to save the car some miles. I do not regret this decision, SpeakEasy was a good night and it was lovely chatting and catching up with Adrian. CONFAB Adrian Confab Cabaret with John Hegley (the last time I saw Adrian).

Suffering the dip, being in a familiar environment with people I know was preferable. I was revitalised by the end of the evening. There were lots of new faces and audience, incredibly positive for the LitFest team. Suz performed the Squid Ballroom, part of her Laureate event – more on this next month, I am one of the invited performers.

I spent Friday tying up loose ends and trying to write. I sent my poems to Rick Saunders the brainchild behind Rob’s PTS thank you gift. We (the collective at PTS) have sent writing to Rick who has printed a pamphlet (more like a book at 80 odd pages) to present to Rob on the final night – Permission to Shut Up – at the end of March. I sent my poem about the stage ‘The Secret of Scary Canary’s Stage’ and one I wrote especially for Rob all about what he has achieved with PTS and what it means to the rest of us, originally titled ‘Permission to Speak’. He should be extremely proud of his achievements and hopefully this isn’t the last we have heard from him.

spark I spent an entire evening planning a non-fiction session for my Spark Young Writers group (Writing West Midlands). Inspired by the Royal Society of Photographers exhibition I walked around last month I decided to do Science Journalism. The group thoroughly enjoyed themselves and I am still wiping sweat from my brow – I was worried in case any of them chose to write about the bee’s anus. Which was an amazing piece of photography and incredibly fascinating to look at. I was amazed by the talented articles that came from this session. Some great writing.

It was also the DeMontfort Book Fair in Leicester – States of Independence, not something they hosted when I lived there for 5 years. Leicester is where I broke my performance poetry seal and will always have a little bit of a special place in my heart. Sarah Leavesley was there with her V. Press bookshop, she also launched her new book – a novella published by Mantle Lane Press.

http://www.mantlelanepress.co.uk/product/kaleidoscope available to buy for just £4.00

It always hurts to miss out on events, I dreamed of a busy writing life and I have one, but it means that sometimes I no longer have the freedom to march across the country to be a part of special evenings. There are also the inevitable date clashes where big decisions are made. Never have cloning and teleportation been so necessary in my life!

On Sunday I missed one of the best opportunities since the Verve Festival. Bang Said the Gun – which I have known about since 2014 and watched countless clips of online is touring and they kicked off in Stafford – relatively close (would be closer if the M6 ever flowed properly) with Jo Bell and Jonny Fluffypunk (two of my old time/all time favs) and I missed it! It was Sunday night, Week 3 and 4 are full in my diary, energy was low, as were funds and Mr G and I need to spend more time together and my car is the equivalent of an old broken pull along toy with some bits missing and broken/re-knotted string! I do not trust it on terribly long journeys or car park motorways where you hear it over heat within the first crawling 100 yards.

I missed an amazing night and an opportunity to see friends from that neck of the woods too. Gutted. I did go to check out tickets and look at the rest of the tour and this was the nearest and also had the featured artists I wanted to see. I would say there will be other times, but with something like this – there won’t be. Gutted with a capital G.

C6J5sWSXEAAknoQ

Canterbury never had anything like this when I lived there either!

Week 3:

mancs

I knew I would miss License to Rhyme at the Artrix, featuring Pete the Temp. I had to work and manage Manchester the following evening and I spent part of Monday choosing and rehearsing/timing my set. I also spent time with family, which I hadn’t planned much beforehand and this left me hours behind on writing time. Not that it would be any other way. Family comes first. It just meant the will I /won’t I… became a definite No I won’t!

Again I heard good things about the evening and am particularly disappointed that I missed Fergus McGonigal and Lorna Meehan performing.

I did receive some exciting emails which made a night in with my inbox particularly worthwhile. And have since taken action on these – fingers crossed once again!

On Tuesday I headlined alongside Becky Cheeriman and Mark Pajak in Manchester at Sarah L. Dixon’s Quiet, Quiet Loud. I have known about this booking at Quiet, Quiet Loud for months and the butterflies went tribal. Originally looking to headline in April or May, the gig was brought forward as Sarah L Dixon is on the move and this was to be her final event at The Llyod’s.

Rick Saunders had signed up for the open mic and kindly offered to chauffeur up the M6. Unfortunately, days before his car broke down and so we were left with some last minute arrangements. In the end we hired a car (scared that mine wouldn’t make a 200 mile round trip in a night). The journey there was fine, even passing a Willis milk tanker – Rick’s stage name is Willis the Poet…  we passed the time chatting about the spoken word scene and stopping just once for the most expensive bottle of service station water – I think it was made from diamonds or something! The journey back was horrendous, closed motorways, detours and a SATNAV that was convinced the motorway junction was still open.

The event itself was worth every mile of motorway network and it was a pleasure to headline at the final Quiet, Quiet Loud. You can read my full review here and Rick managed to post his the very next day. https://willisthepoet.wordpress.com/2017/03/15/quietly-does-it/

Huge thanks again to Rick for the lift.

Read the full review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/manchester-quiet-quiet-loud-headline/

I spent Wednesday morning before work recovering, I found out about the Science and Arts Festival hosted by Birmingham University and a creative writing workshop that I would have loved to attend, although it would have been a lot before work to manage. I have pencilled it in for next year as there were lots of interesting events.

I spent Wednesday night working on submissions and on Thursday mum and I went to see Verve – Northern School of Contemporary Dance. Mr G bought us tickets for Christmas. Verve-web-8-crop-1876x1055

http://www.nscd.ac.uk/verve/

They made me want to dance again, to create dance poetry and to lose myself in costume and movement. The fact that my body could barely manage to sit through a 2 hour production tells me otherwise, but my soul is still very much committed!

I spent the weekend on things other than writing and chiselled out some time at the end of Sunday to write applications and work on my writing action plan. There are some intended submissions to create before the end of the month and three sets to plan for EarthHour (25th March), HerStory (31st March) and Poetry Ballroom (2nd April).

Week 4:

The week started with a flurry of activity organising poetry events and writing. February was a busy month for making applications and devising projects and this month sees more energy focused on these and some fruition.

I spent the first part of the week in rest (working, sleeping, living) and saving energy for a series of 3 days of poeting. Which was easy as only one of them involved performing. Although I left it somewhat late to arrange a set and fine tune the details.

I also agreed to hiding some GOLDEN TICKETS for Birmingham Literature Festival. It is the 20th Anniversary this year and the team have organised a Spring Festival to celebrate. They have sent out Golden Tickets to be found in local bookshops, Art cafes and libraries. I have taken two under my wing and let them fly (and hide).

https://www.birminghamliteraturefestival.org/2017/03/will-you-find-a-golden-ticket/

The lucky finder wins a free ticket (worth at least £10) to an event of their choice. I want to find one of these – but it may cost more petrol money than buying a ticket. Fun idea. Great one. One I may steal in the future! First time I have ever felt like Willy Wonka… it was a good feeling.

WP_20170325_016

On Thursday I saw Hollie McNish, I love Hollie…  it has been a while since I saw her perform and part of me knew that this book would be difficult for me for personal reasons, this is why I have not yet bought a copy – but watching her breathing magic into the tale and hearing such personal disclosure and truth was wonderful. hollie 2 The event had been organised at The Hive (Library) in partnership with Poetry On Loan – well done to Brenda Read-Brown!

I had been to the basement space once with my writing group and was amazed to find the event not in the studio – that was until I saw the size of the audience! Holly thought, it being a library gig in a small city there may be about 20 people! Multiply that by 10! A smashing night.

Read the full review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/hollie-mcnish-nobody-told-me/

My review of the Verve Poetry Festival went live on Sabotage Reviews. http://sabotagereviews.com/

sabosabo 6

Stanza happened on Friday – for the first time in months I thoroughly enjoyed it – and in a strange way all of our poems were love poems (but not the sort you imagine).

3FD48DB6-8889-43E3-9534-E9374815FFB8

Over the weekend I celebrated Earth Hour and Mother’s Day. Earth Hour was amazing, I went to the event organised by Worcester LitFest at Café Bliss. You can read the full review here

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/earth-hour-with-wlf/

WP_20170325_037

Week 5

I spent the majority of my spare time writing and editing and planning how an earth I was going to manage this final week of performances and deadlines. The solution was an A4 checklist that I had very little leeway on.

I also had another poem published ‘Rag Tree’ which will be in the Beltane anthology by Three Drops. More news about festival events I am organising/performing in and events that I am just performing in. Future workshops to book and lots of potential festival tickets to be bought. I wrote new work and edited older poems.

Tuesday evening saw the final PTS – Permission to Speak become Permission to Shut Up – as it was a work night I was worried I may not last until the end, but scribbled a new poem especially for the last event (for now), the night before and got a short set ready. I was due to headline in May, potentially Rob may have a new venue by then, but I get the feeling that he needs/wants a mini-break and this would be the time to take it.

It was a great night, all in all and I will mark the occasion with a blog post as soon as I get some spare time. I took lots of pictures and stayed until the end to see Rick present Rob with his pamphlet.

42 in Worcester celebrated it’s 6th birthday and I took a newly scribed poem to celebrate. Rick Saunders headlined Spoken Trend on the same night, which I had to miss. Please someone clone me! Event clashes… every poet’s nemesis! 42 was fun and again, I will mark the occasion with a full blogpost when I have a little time. Polly made an amazing Black Forest Gateaux cake! Makes my mouth water just thinking about it. All the performances were bang on and the celebratory air was sweet.

LINKS TO FOLLOW.

With two days left of March and Easter around the corner, you may think that was it… no, I am playing the game – How much can you pack into 48hours?

Thursday I gave myself a night off from performing/events – missing out on Caffe Grande Slam in Dudley again, I will get there. I spent the evening editing a new poem (my 3rd this week) and submitting work.

fragile-houses-best

I also received an exciting email from my publisher. Another review of Fragile Houses, this time on Sabotage Reviews. How wonderful to start and end the month with reviews. You can read Rachel Stirling’s incredibly intricate review here.

http://sabotagereviews.com/2017/03/30/fragile-houses-nina-lewis/

sabo

I discovered Claire Walker and Holly Magill have embarked on editing a new Magazine ‘Atrium’, they have both edited for Kate Garrett at Three Drops recently and this new opportunity morphed from that experience. More on Atrium soon.

I saw Heather Wastie’s Nationwide advert – which was as equally exciting as watching Jo Bell’s and what made it special was seeing it first thing before work and in the final adverts before bed. Don’t ask me how I have time to watch TV and complete my mammoth writing tasks!

Holly McNish won the Ted Hughes award (one of the judges this year was Jo Bell – busy as always). Amazing news & recognition!

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/hollie-mcnishs-poetic-motherhood-memoir-wins-ted-hughes-award-518171

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/29/hollie-mcnishs-funny-and-serious-poetry-wins-ted-hughes-prize

I received news of another successful Festival bid for this summer. More on this soon.

I completed the month with a Woo Feminista event HerStory at Café Bliss. I will blog and link it up here as soon as I can.

And now I am ready for NaPoWriMo, Poetry Ballroom and a rather-already-regrettable booking of an almost full week of work! I booked Monday off as I have 3 consecutive events this weekend and will be typing until my fingers go numb finishing my writing tasks over the next 24 hours!

I hope you all had a good month too. Leave me some of your highlights in the comments, it would be great to hear from you.

cart3

Keep Writing x

Manchester – Quiet, Quiet Loud Headline

Standard

Last year Sarah Dixon contacted me about headlining in Manchester, originally the booking was set for April/May- but due to Sarah relocating my spot was brought forward to March.

I booked time off work and made arrangements. I was originally going to do an overnight and what I learnt from this experience is how to be sensible… gigging further afield, it is probably best to stay overnight. Fortunately, Rick Saunders (a.k.a Willis the Poet), signed up for the open mic and offered to drive. Unfortunately his car broke down the week before and we ended up hiring a nifty little number to get us Northbound.

Manchester isn’t all that far away, but after a day of work and with butterfly nerves I did not fancy driving. Plus I have an inherent fear of the M6! That pesky Toll road…

Our journey out there was easy, didn’t take long. We found the venue and headed off for some tea before going to the The Llyod’s Hotel. Our journey back was horrendous with motorway closures, traffic jams and a satnav that was convinced the signs suggesting junction closures were wrong.

BUT – it was all worth it!

Quiet, Quiet Loud is an incredible event that Sarah has been running for two and a half years now. I can imagine the loss to the local poetry community (having just experienced the end of PTS at the Scary Canary).

March 14th Quiet, Quiet Loud

qql

Guests Mark Pajak and Becky Cherriman and Nina Lewis

Mark Pajak was born in Merseyside. His work has been published in Magma, The North and The Rialto (among others), been highly commended in the Cheltenham Poetry Competition and National Poetry Competition and won first place in the 2016 Bridport Prize. He has received a Northern Writer’s Award from New Writing North and was 2016’s Apprentice Poet in Residence at Ilkley Literature Festival. His first pamphlet, Spitting Distance, was selected as a Laureate’s Choice and is published with smith|doorstop.

Becky Cherriman is a writer, workshop leader and performer based in Leeds. Published by Mslexia, New Walk, Envoi, Mother’s Milk, Bloodaxe, Well Versed and in Poets For Corbyn, she was resident poet for Morley Literature Festival in 2013 and lead artist for Altofts Festival In A Day 2016. Becky is a co-writer and performer of Haunt, a site-specific theatre commission for Imove, a project about homelessness. She is currently working on her one woman show with voices, Corseted. Her first poetry pamphlet Echolocation and first collection Empires of Clay were published in 2016 by Mother’s Milk and Cinnamon Press respectively. www.beckycherriman.com

Nina Lewis is widely published in poetry journals and anthologies, including Abridged, Fat Damsel, Take Ten, Hark, Here Comes Everyone (HCE), I am Not a Silent Poet, New Ulster Poetry, Nutshells and Nuggets, Under the Radar and Visual Verse. Worcestershire Poet Laureate Competition 2015/2016 runner-up, Nina often performs at spoken word events and literary festivals. She was commissioned to write and perform poetry on ‘ecology and the city’ at the Birmingham Literature Festival in 2014. Her haiku have appeared in an art installation at the Midlands Art Centre, on the Poetry Fence at Acton Scott Historic Working Farm and in Municipal Bank Vaults for an International Dance Festival. Nina’s work also formed part of the poetry trail for Wenlock Poetry Festival 2014. Fragile Houses, published by V. Press autumn 2016, is her first pamphlet.

I was really excited to meet Becky and see Mark again (who I first saw perform at Waterstones last Autumn with the Poetry Business).
It was a thrill to stand in a room I had seen on social media for years! The standard of poetry was really high and there were plenty of open mic spots. An appreciative, poetry loving audience and bundles of talent. It was lovely to see Sarah again and hear her poems, many from her pamphlet collection (fingers crossed for this to make publication soon). I had the pleasure of reading through a draft copy for her last year. She chose some strong poems to share with us.

becky cherriman

Becky Cherriman was the first Guest Poet to take to the floor. I love it when I do not know a poet and have no idea what to expect.
I was moved by Becky’s set and need to buy her book, she was a wonderful performer and her poetry ran a gauntlet of emotions. An incredibly powerful set. It was good to meet her.

I would have bought her book on the night but with hire charges and petrol/drinks etc. my cash was a little light. I will catch her again and you should too. A gifted poet who deals with all shades of life. I still have her poetry in my head a fortnight later.

http://www.beckycherriman.com/

Mark Pajak took us into his world after the interval. I was looking forward to hearing his work again and thoroughly enjoyed his set. It was good to hear more from him. He is talented performer and an engaging poet. He writes about some seemingly bizarre incidents and is not afraid to share them, despite being advised not to. I appreciate that rebellious side. His work is like nothing I have read or heard from anybody else, unique. Prizewinning and extra special.

Mark Pajak

I was nervous having watched these masters at work and really wanted to change my set – but having timed it I didn’t think it was appropriate to cast last minute changes. I find my pamphlet fairly difficult to share as I want to give the audience enough of the sizzle and taste but don’t want to take them on the whole chronological journey or indeed read all the poems in the book. I have seen other headliners (with pamphlets) sharing several newer poems too, this may be the way forward – but I am not entirely sure. It may be like when you see a band and want them to play the albums and they slip in several B sides… I have always been a fan of the B side.

me qql

It was a pleasure to be invited to the final Quiet, Quiet Loud and read in Manchester. It was an inspiring evening filled with poetry buzz.

If you want to read a review of my set, check out Rick’s blogpost below.

RELATED LINKS:

https://willisthepoet.wordpress.com/2017/03/15/quietly-does-it/

February in Review

Standard

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.

pts

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.

roy-beg-last-breath

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.

ant-peace-vigil

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

peace-curtain-by-janet-smith

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.

strange-keys

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/

pa-me

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!

howl-2

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.

se

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!

verve-banner

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.

the-glass

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.

spoken-trend-feb

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

nuclear

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!

cart3

 

Verve Poetry Festival: Day 3 Poetry Breakfast

Standard

verve_logo_retina

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).

verve-full-line-up

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).

pitm-blog-banner

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

Standard

verve-2-dice-slam

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.

verve-dice-slam

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

verve12

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.


verve-2-toby-campion

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’

verve-banner

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

Standard

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).

verve-jpg

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.

the_art_of_falling_kim_moore72dpi

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’.

small-hands

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…’

katrina-croc

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

verve-jpg

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!

Standard

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.

Foxboy

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.

fragile-houses-best

 

January in Review

Standard

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.

shabda

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.

WWM

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.

baldy

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!

king1

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!

42

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/

qc

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.

social-1206603_1280

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

Standard

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.

QC tour

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

qc-sarah

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.

qc-tom-mccoll

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.

qc-heather

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.

qc-gerry-potter1

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.

qc-jess-d

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.

qc-kathy-gee

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.

qc-steve-pottinger

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

Standard

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.

elaine-book-launch

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.

fh-sarah-4

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.

fh-sarah-3

fh-sarah-2

fh2

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.

elaine-book-launch-2

fh-sarah

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.

fh4

fh3

fh-1

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!

fh5

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)