SpeakEasy is finally able to offer LIVE events. We follow in the footsteps of former Worcestershire Poet Laureate, Leena Batchelor and Ade Couper, Worcestershire Poet Laureate. Both Leena and Ade have been involved in and organised LIVE events throughout the pandemic. Worcester Festival managed a successful SLAM at the Swan Theatre/ Worcester Theatres back in the summer. Finally, last week WLFF joined the LIVE events listings too – after 18+ months.
The first LIVE SpeakEasy in 1.5 years… we feel that’s to be celebrated.
We don’t usually post write-ups after monthly events, but in these times and for all those who couldn’t make it – we thought it was too wonderful not to share.
So here are some incredible photos which capture all the energy of the 9th September, taken by Kevin Brooke. They ironically put us all back in little boxes.
WLFF are holding two Mental Health & Wellbeing events this year, a LIVE one on the 9th October and an ONLINE SpeakEasy on the 10th – World Mental Health Day.
It’s a chance to raise awareness of mental health through creativity but also a chance to check-in with ourselves and those around us.
The LIVE event on the 9th Oct. includes speakers and people you can talk to, find out more details here.
Poetry & Spoken Word from the Heart & Soul, Sat. 9th Oct – 4pm – Worcester Quaker Meeting House, 1 Sansome Walk, WR1 1UG
An open mic spoken word event for World Mental Health Day, featuring the 2021 Worcestershire Poet Laureate Ade Couper; a Speakeasy special; selected readings & talks from the Hard Times Happen anthology, sponsored by Time to Change Worcestershire.
Today is St George’s Day and also Shakespeare’s Birthday. Back in Elizabethan times people (apparently) didn’t celebrate birthdays! Can you imagine? Since 1824 the town of Stratford-Upon-Avon Shakespeare’s birthday has marked the occasion. This year of course, it’s virtual.
I’ve marked the day by creating the artwork for this post and my Napowrimo write today was penned in my Shakespeare Birthplace Trust notebook – bought 4 years ago on my last visit.
March, our month of hope… some lockdown restrictions lifted in the UK, schools to reopen, vaccination roll out continues and spring gifts us sunshine and new flowers. We couldn’t help but fear the budget slightly, many of us have not saved in this crisis many of us face financial hardship, so the thought of rising taxes is a scary one. All of us are grateful to still be here.
I saw my mum for the first time in a month, with PPE and distancing of course, we also celebrated Mother’s Day in the UK this month, I was able to order my mum a very practical present from the internet (all shops shut during Lockdown) so I was grateful to be able to offer more than supermarket flowers in return of the love she gives us and the life she gave me.
I needed a month to finish my work contract and concentrate on some desk time. I created a new platform/website for Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe after we ran into major difficulties with our old server (after several full days of work on it). I also started flexing my notebook muscles as a warm up to next month’s crazy NaPoWriMo.
The University of Glasgow have a fantastic series called Creative Conversations, they are free to join, well attended webinars on Zoom. Interview/Reading followed by Q&A. This month I had the pleasure of listening in to Don Paterson‘s session with Carolyn Jess-Cooke.
Classes continue with Tawnya Renelle in Creative Experimental and I started ‘Hearts & Minds’ with Zelda Chappel. I continued to workshop poems with Rakaya Fetuga‘s Spoken Word group although, sadly this is the final month the CARAF centre can offer. They have done an amazing job throughout all three lockdowns offering free workshops. I continue to heal with Redwing and the team in the states. This month they released their Winter edition which included the poems I shared at the Reimagine Festival event last Autumn.
The Poets in Motion class have sent all parts of the unity poem in for editing, three members of the team have collated them into a poem for an anthology later in the year. I still can’t believe we lost Celena.
The Hive – Worcestershire Libraries have continued to provide the Poetry Bubble with Amanda Bonnick, Polly Stretton and Caz…. It is a lovely event, very laid back and a great number of audience as well as readers. I was really tired by the middle of the week, but glad I made it, as it made me feel much better.
By Thursday I was drained and slept for 4 hours when I got home from work, which meant I missed everything I had noted in the diary, but if 2019 taught me anything, it was to/ how to listen to my body. I had a hospital appointment the day before with the consultant so was not surprised by my fatigue, even that journey to and in the hospital is tough enough. Fortunately I woke in time for Arrival at Elsewhere, a Cheltenham Poetry Festival event. Read the write up here.
I finished the week with a weekend of poetry readings, workshops and groups. Love in Polyvocal Times with Judy Grahn was a great reading. Valuable. Generous.
Judy Grahn is one of the most significant poets and activists of our times, an author whose work makes an extraordinary contribution to queer studies, poetics and feminism. Grahn’s publications include Hanging on Our Bones (Arktoi Books, 2017), Love Belongs to Those Who Do the Feeling (Red Hen Press, 2008), The Judy Grahn Reader (Aunt Lute, 2014), The Queen of Swords (Beacon Press, 1990), The Queen of Wands (Crossing Press, 1982), A Simple Revolution (Aunt Lute, 2012), Blood, Bread and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World (Beacon Press, 1994), Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds (Triangle Classics, 2016), Mundane’s World (Crossing Press, 1988).
Eruptions of Inanna: Justice, Gender and Erotic Power (Nightboat, 2021) is forthcoming this year.
“All the poets I know look upon Judy Grahn with admiration and awe, convinced that she’s leagues ahead of us, superhuman in her power and insight. But the poet of these chants of grief and frustration–and hope–is human for sure, torn by the same powerlessness and disgust at prevalent social conditions as the rest of us–it’s only that she has lightning at her command–a magic of writing that illuminates, shreds darkness like confetti, and lets us see past the end of each page, past all our histories, a magic that lets us glimpse a previously unimagined future.” – Kevin Killian
I went to the poetry event for Fairtrade Connections – Community Arts Festival for Fairtrade Fortnight 2021 Clare Shaw read from her volume Flood about the devastating floods in Hebden Bridge in 2016 and Zoe Brigley Thompson and Kristian Evans read from their upcoming anthology 100 Poems to Save the Earth. It was a pleasure to watch and listen.
I finished building the website for WLF and started putting some work in on my own manuscript. I did a Haiku workshop with Anna Yin, enjoyed readings from Jill Abram, Fahad Al-Amoudi & Malika Booker at Live from The Butchery, incredible as always.
I finished the night off with readings from the Poetry Book Society 2020 Competition winners. The winners of the 2020 International Book & Pamphlet Competition as chosen by Imtiaz Dharker and Ian McMillan were:
for her collection, Black Mascara (Waterproof)
for her collection, In Your Absence
for her collection, When I Think of My Body as a Horse
for her collection, The Last Dinosaur in Doncaster
It was an incredible launch, plenty of emotive poems and a great Q&A. It is a shame for the winners that it had to be virtual, but with 140 people in attendance from all over the world, their words had a far reach this evening and will linger in both heads and hearts for some time to come, I am sure.
I managed to catch most of Kirstin Innes Creative Conversations, from the University of Glasgow. A good start to International Women’s Day. After an eye test I celebrated my eyesight not worsening (for the second year running), by watching 4 fantastic Cardiff poets, two whom I know and two who were new to me, love my ear discovering new-to-me poets. I managed to catch Jinny Fisher and Katrina Naomi at Cafe Writers, before calling it a night.
Sadly, we lost another writer and great teacher last month, Celena Diana Bumpus. I started her Poets in Motion course back in Spring 2020 -Lockdown 1. I was due to be a guest in her new writing series rolled out 2021 alongside the plethora of classes this superwoman fuelled writer offered! She was always busy helping others. A memorial has been organised for April where we will gather to celebrate the blessing of knowing her. The poets on my course have all managed to reunite and are sharing messages and updates. Especially those who are based in the Riverside area, USA. This week there was news of an article published Sunday 7th. The headline of which was taken from one of her social media feeds as a message to us all; ‘Live long enough to become a metaphor.’
I received a couple of invites to guest read, one of which is an international reading. Last year I did a lot with the Walt Whitman Birthplace. In the summer I submitted several of coronavirus poems for an anthology, Corona, which was being produced in collaboration with Walt Whitman Birthplace Association, edited by Gayl Teller (Nassau County Poet Laureate 2009-11 & Walt Whitman Birthplace 2016 Poet of the Year.) I was delighted when I heard that they were publishing a couple of my poems and in April I shall share one at the launch.
I did three wonderful workshops this week, the first was postponed from February – Lines in the Sand workshop, which was great fun. A poetry workshop with James Davies as part of the New Words Festival and a workshop with Rebecca Morgan Frank which was fantastic.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Robert Seatter’s reading at Poets Cafe on Friday night and managed to wake up early enough to make it back to Perth Poetry Club (all practise for early morning Recoil 12 anthology launch on the 27th).
And I was able to see mum (socially distanced) for Mother’s Day too.
This was a week filled with tutorials to put the finishing touches to the competition pages for the Worcestershire LitFest website, readings and writing. I am still busy working on a couple of projects and look forward to April/May when I can commit more time to these.
I missed some events noted in the diary due to sleep. My body is currently suffering a lot and I am hoping next week will bring a slower pace (a couple of weeks off for Easter will help and heal). I haven’t been on a walk this year at all! I have walked but only to get somewhere. Appointments at the Drs, opticians, pharmacy collections or across car parks and forecourts – all great lockdown (not locked down/working) highlights. I cannot wait to get back to nature and see how busy it has been for the past 3.5 months!
Over the next fortnight I managed to miss Kim Addonizio three times, thank goodness I caught her at Cheltenham Poetry Festival. Highlights include Goldsmiths with Michael Rosen (who suffered badly from Covid) and has written a book called ‘Many Different Kinds of Love’. I went to the Resilience as a Poet Panel, postponed from February. It was a valuable hour. I finally made it back to Sheffield Libraries and a creative writing workshop on Home. And watched the PBS book launch for Michael Schmidt and saw Joy Harjo as part of the Emory Libraries programme.
It was our final week with Zelda Chappel and her wonderful, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED classes/workshops. I thoroughly enjoyed this group and now need to put the work in to mould the scaffolded poems from March.
Mass Poetry has been a joy, the main festival happens in May (13th-16th) but this month they ran a series of 3 workshops around water. This week I attended What the Waters Have Made Us with Eleni Sikelianos and Lucía Hinojosa. It was fantastic, fun and worth staying up late for.
Tamworth Literature Festival and Manchester Literature Festival started this week. Tamworth runs for a few days and Manchester for a couple of weeks. I really enjoyed Mancs. Lit Fest in 2020 and have booked onto a couple of my favourite poets. This week was Roger Robinson, a generous and insightful event. This man is incredible. If you have not discovered him, please do.
I performed at the Open Mic Night at the Tamworth Poetry Festival.
The weekend saw the launch of Recoil 12 Anthology. Coral Carter (Mulla Mulla Press) has been producing these anthologies featuring a selection of head liners from Perth Poetry Club for 12 years. The 10th anniversary edition was a huge collection but generally the year denotes the number of poets. It was an honour to be selected for this 12th edition anthology and I am in LOVE with the cover.
The back of The Moon is decorated throughout the year and at one point featured this Zebra print – I remember it. Another joy was the poem came from my 2018 Perth writing (which after bad health/other projects) I am only just getting around to writing. I haven’t submitted many poems from it yet, but all sent have found homes. Which bodes well for this body of work.
It was an early start 5:50 A.M but worth every minute to be part of this celebratory event.
Saturday night saw the last of the CARAF centre Spoken Word Workshops with Rakaya Fetuga too. The group is a mix of experienced and new writers and it has been a real joy. We have decided to continue meeting and workshopping together even though the project – which ran for a year, throughout all 3 UK Lockdowns has come to an end.
The month was finished off with a Book Launch, Worcester 42 and some readings. Chaucer Cameron & Cheryl Moskowitz launched their new pamphlets on Sunday afternoon. A wonderful event attended by over 125 people. It was lovely to see many poets I know.
Against the Grain Press present In an Ideal World I’d Not Be Murdered by Chaucer Cameron and Maternal Impression by Cheryl Moskowitz
In addition to readings from Chaucer and Cheryl we have guest readers Lucy English and Isabelle Baafi. Read my write up of this remarkable event here.
Our poetry resource for the day is a digital presentation of a rather strange book. Since the late 1930s, Harvard University has hosted The Morris Gray Lecture Series, featuring mainly poets, and simultaneously has collected the signatures of all the lecturers in a large ledger. You can explore a PDF of the ledger here. Who’d have thought that W.H. Auden’s signature would be so tight and small? Theodore Roethke signed on the wrong side of the page, and some unidentified persons seem to have snuck their signatures into the book over the years. A lyrical mystery!
Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem in the form of a review. But not a review of a book or a movie of a restaurant. Instead, I challenge you to write a poetic review of something that isn’t normally reviewed. For example, your mother-in-law, the moon, or the year 2020.
It was interesting to read the result of someone who had managed to include all the almanac responses in one poem, this was a task I very much felt was beyond me yesterday, so I chose just 3 to write about. I may go back and see if I can form one this morning though.
I enjoyed the poetry resource, a few years ago around the time Angela France was writing her collection ‘The Hill’ I did some workshops with her where we used historical documents, it was interesting and enabled me to write poems which would never have existed otherwise.
I am going to go and think about today’s prompt and will come back to update the post on the process/my progress later. We have the last morning of sunshine for a while and have computer bookings from midday so want to get some fresh garden air.
I enjoyed our Day 11 prompt so much that I am still working through that one, although I do have 1 complete poem and then lots of scribbled notes and pockets of research. Future threads.
And despite being incredibly late posting today – I woke early (before 6 AM) and had completed my NaPo poem (in the garden) before breakfast!
I am a reader of Katie’s blog so had seen the poem before it was selected for the participant’s site. I was drawn by the title ‘Of flowers and spies’. The second stanza was particularly striking despite her not being in a serious writing mood when she wrote it.
Sometimes I get very excited by the chosen resources – today was one of those times. I have also been looking for videos of poetry and related sessions to keep me inspired and happy during self-isolation. I will be checking back for updates. I listened to Sarah Kay reading Forest Fires.
The You Tube channel probably has all episodes if you click around but the original work seemed to be bountiful over on the Poetry Foundation site.
I read all the example poems and there are lots of them.
I had written the form before but this was a very clear explanation of it so do have a read if you are new to writing a triolet. I was out in the garden before 7 AM and sat down to write my NaPo poem. I wrote a couple of triolets, for me they don’t feel 100% settled into their form, I think the trick is choosing suitable rhyming words for the AB pattern.
Today was the first day in a fortnight where I haven’t been attending readings and workshops in the wonderful Stay at Home Lit Festival and it felt strange not to connect to that network after relying heavily on it for a few weeks.
It was also a strange Easter, I think the only time I haven’t seen my family for Easter was when I lived too far away/ was away on holiday – it is hard having some of them within geographical reach and not being able to see them.
I did as most of us on lock-down have and used Social Media, Face time and the good old fashioned phone! I also got to spend the day with Mr G. and we just dealt with the lack of Easter.
Those of you who follow AWF will know that I lost 12 months of work and writing to ill health. I planned to post more at the end of 2019 but desperately had to get paid work to make up for the year I wasn’t able to work. I managed to juggle a few opportunities and a commission or two. Somehow I managed to work on editing the second pamphlet (the aptly titled) ‘Patience’ with Sarah Leavesley at V. Press and that was published in the Autumn and launched before the end of the year.
Before the end of the year I was hit with another wave of rotten and have been dealing with readjusting my life and health accordingly. We had lots of things happening to loved ones too. Despite this final twist, by the beginning of 2020 I was feeling much stronger and able to use my body again in the normal way we all take for granted. I had started to return to Poetry events and although writing wasn’t coming easily I managed some workshops and some ideas started to nest.
Then we were hit with dealing with losing loved ones and the untimely tragedy of losing a friend.
By February we discovered the world was under attack and COVID’19 took over.
I have spent the last 4 weeks in various states that I won’t go into here, right now but needless to say writing was the furthest thing from my mind. However, if one thing this week has taught me it is that creatives will create and support, comfort and help each other. There is lots to say and lots to do – including distraction and projects. So as part of my self isolation I am FINALLY going to reboot the blog.
[This article is now taught in universities, and I’ve had many many messages to tell me that people have increased their publication record, sometimes by 200% in a year. It’s included (with much other useful advice) in our new book from Nine Arches Press, How to Be a Poet]
I’ve spent some time lately with poetry journal editors – and also with the poor beggars who, like me, send off work to them. It’s struck me anew that many people, especially those at the beginning of their writing career, don’t have much idea of how submission works and what time span is realistic for an editor to consider a poem. Also, they’re wondering how to keep tabs on the seventeen different pieces that they’ve sent out, in order to avoid the no-no of simultaneous submission.
What follows is the Jo Bell Method; the method of an immensely, award-winningly disorganised poet who nonetheless…