Category Archives: Verve Poetry Festival

February Review 2018

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Week 1: 

I started the month with my editing hat on. Submissions closed for Contour (digital WPL magazine), the 2nd Issue – ‘Love’, scheduled for release 4 months after the 1st Issue ‘Place’. My plan was to have 3 to 4 magazines during my tenure. I will successfully manage that, there is a Special Edition coming in April for the ‘A Tale Of Two Cities’ Project and then in June on the day I hang up my Laureate crown and watch the new Laureateship launch, I will release the final issue.

It has been a steep and brilliant learning curve and a real pleasure. It has been a great opportunity to discover talented poets on a National and International level too.

Whatever else I think, I can rest soundly knowing that I promoted poetry and offered abundant opportunities for writing during my year. I have 3 months (I like to say a quarter of a year because it sounds longer) left, but already the competition is open to find the next Laureate and the feelings of being bereft are already settling. I shall find ways of dealing with this. Such as embarking on International Poetry Adventures and writing my first collection. But I am sure it will feel a little strange.

I also spent an incredible amount of time on the ATOTC project, which again has been a huge bite to chew, but I have loved every minute. It has certainly taught me a thing or two. The Response poems are coming in and it is wonderful to read the interpretations of the Call poems. I am slightly worried that the whole project may total over 200 pages… certainly enough reading material to keep you busy on a rainy day!

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ATOTC is my main WPL project and it has certainly been the biggest. I am incredibly excited by the next stages of the project and the plans I have for it beyond that. It is going to be magnificent!

I edited some poems which had been waiting patiently in the wings and finally started working on my own response poem for ATOTC. I wanted to get it cast to paper before the weekend as I have a chance to edit it.

Things are intentionally quiet on the performance front with most of my attention set for Verve Poetry & Spoken Word Festival in Birmingham, mid-February. Other than this I am busy with desk tasks and workshop preparation.

This week I prepared for a meeting for a Gifted and Talented Workshop I am doing, I am excited as it involves multiple local schools.

I also prepared for my final session/workshop at Rugby Library as the Reader in Residence.

I attended an editing group at the weekend where my ATOTC was fine tuned and is now a strong pastiche of Linda Warren’s poem. Look out for the Special Edition Contour in April to read our Call & Response poems.

I took a booking for National Poetry Day. (4th Oct.) after which I will be heading off to Swindon Poetry Festival.

 

Week 2

A very busy start to the week editing Issue 2 of Contour Magazine, working out the running order and formatting. It took an inane amount of time (roughly 3 days), lots of difficulties on the technical side of desktop publishing – but the results were worth it.

 

I had a meeting regarding school workshops booked for March, which was fabulous. I am very excited about this workshop.

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The following day I drove to Rugby Library for my final Reader in Residence workshop. It was a small group but a wonderful morning and those in attendance enjoyed it.

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I am writing a Guest Blog Review for the library and will link it back to AWF. My Residency finishes in March and I hoping for one last trip to the library for something special, more on that soon.

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I planned my Suffragette Workshop for Saturday at The Hive, started work organising the poetry events for the summer ArtsFest in Droitwich, sent emails to successful contributors of Contour and took a booking for Brum Stanza.

I also started prep for Verve Poetry & Spoken Word Festival (15-18th Feb.). This year I am the Official Festival Blogger, last year I blogged about most of the events and attended pretty much the entire festival (which is no mean feat – with a packed 2 day weekend programme, workshops and events on the preceding evenings), worth the exhaustion though and I also wrote a full review for Sabotage Reviews. This year, I have arranged to write the review for them again and have booked my workshops (one of which I won by coming 2nd in the Haiku Slam at Grizzly Pear) and have my new Kindle Bluetooth Keyboard Case (Christmas present) all ready. Look out for lots of updates, I shall be sharing from the Verve official site.

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Thursday I went to SpeakEasy which was Headlined by the wonderful Jenna Clake and I enjoyed her set from Fortune Cookie, which won the 2016 Melita Hume Prize for Poetry . It was a vibrant evening of poetry and even though I was shattered, I had a great night. I shared a couple of city poems and it was good to catch up with Jenna before Verve.

JENNA SE Watch out for an Interview with Jenna Clake in the Contour Issue 4 (June).

You can buy a copy of this award winning debut collection published by Eyewear here.

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Friday it snowed (which is as exciting as anything writing related), I was working in a school on the hills and was slightly concerned about getting home, but it had melted by then!

I also had Stanza where I took my Contour Love Poem for some editing treatment, it was a lovely evening, filled with poetry and critique. It was good to reconnect, I missed our December meeting due to being too tired after work and January from ill health. It was good to be back. Also a new exciting opportunity was discussed.

Saturday was a busy writing day, I had my WWM group in the morning, who used the Royal Society of Photography Science exhibition to inspire Science Fiction writing.

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This was followed by my Suffragette Workshop in The Hive, Worcester. The workshop was attended by 11 people and I was happy to see a mix of friends, strangers & people who have followed my WPL projects online. It was an informal, whistle stop creative session of just an hour (which worked particularly well for those who left partners in the Hive’s cafe). It was fun and I have already started to receive work for the anthology.

The exhibition runs until 23rd February and can be found on Level 2.

https://worcestershirepoetlaureateninalewis.wordpress.com/2018/02/11/open-submission-suffragette-poetry-exhibition-workshop-the-hive/

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Mr G. and I went to see Cloudbusting (Kate Bush Tribute band) again, the 4th time I think, this time they had a full stage with Media show, which we had not seen before! The next day I was busy editing Contour Magazine – YES! For the WHOLE day!

 

Week 3

My first full writing day in over 2 weeks and I planned a whole list of writing tasks (none of which were actual writing)… however, I spent another whole day on the magazine. It was finally live by the evening.

With a reach of over 600 readers already (in less than 24 hours). Issue 2 has a fine collection of love poetry, a load of Interviews with Pete The Temp, Jeff Cottrill, Amy Rainbow and Sharon Carr and a list of Top Poems voted by the public and is well worth a read.

https://worcestershirepoetlaureateninalewis.wordpress.com/2018/02/12/contour-issue-2-love/

Please share the link.

Contour Issue 2

I also booked my flights to Australia – where I am an International Guest Poet at the Festival in Perth (August), this made it very real! I also shared this news, which I have been sitting on since November.

I shared the next stage of the Suffragettes Poetry Project with workshop attendees and attended a Worcester LitFest Committee Meeting. There have been many changes to the team since I took up the Poet Laureate post, it was an agenda packed evening. It also helped me finalise plans for World Poetry Day (21st March) my official Laureate remit event. It should be great.

I have since worked on publicity and marketing but as ever with organisation, need to wait for one confirmation before I can go live!

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I have been busy working through Response Poems (ATOTC), dreading the proofing stage with over 40 poets… but we have a good stock of coffee and I plan to use Half Term to get the majority ready.

I received my copy of mind anth a wonderful book, brainchild of Isabelle Kenyon. I have yet to read it in full. I have dipped in. A great collection of poems and funds raised with be donated to MIND – Mental Health Charity. I will be writing a full blog post soon to promote this project.

I had my BBC Hereford & Worcester Radio Interview with Tammy Gooding and this month it was a slightly extended recording due to us discussing love poetry and the work of Pablo Neruda! It was fun and I shared the love poem recently published in Contour.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/p05vtpj5

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All performers confirmed World Poetry Day & marketing & promotion was set to GO!

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The deadline for ATOTC response poetry was 15th February & knowing what a huge undertaking it is the proof copies are already leaving my inbox… about 10% proofed & approved in 2 days.

I finished my 3rd book endorsement and am very excited to read a bound copy of this collection soon.

And then there was Verve!

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Verve Poetry Festival (with links to my official blogs)

I spent 5 glorious hours in Waterstones, 15th Feb. then 6 hours writing & editing the official blog reviews.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/verve-ready/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/02/16/verve-day-1/

After very few hours sleep I was back at the Festival on Friday night

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/02/17/verve-day-2-friday-16th/

And then spent my entire weekend there.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/02/21/verve-day-3-saturday-17th-am/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/02/21/verve-day-3-saturday-17th-pm/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/02/21/verve-day-4-sunday-18th/

Since this wonderful festival full of verve… I have been busy writing the official blog reviews which are being drip fed onto the official blog.

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Read more of them here

Week 4 

Started with jet lag, which is the only way to describe the post festival haze of Verve. Wise to this, having attended the full programme last year too – I made sure the diary was empty and the bed was full! I slept, I ate my first meal for 5 days and I hit the desk.

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Writing Verve Reviews, sending proofs for ATOTC, working on bids, sent promo for an event I am part of at the end of end of April, Bohemian Voices organised by Steve Soden and slept some more!

Fortunately it was half term this week so I didn’t have to juggle work into the equation. I mainly worked on proof copy for ATOTC Special Edition Contour magazine and had meetings.

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Starting with Room 204, one of the main attractions is the 1 to 1 mentoring with Jonathan Davidson. It was a productive and useful meeting and I have come away with a page of tasks to incorporate into my work and gold-dust that I needed to acknowledge.

I met with Carolyn Baldwin at the Jinney Ring to finalise the exhibition of our sculpture trail poems from the workshop in September. The poems will be on display in the restaurant for the whole of April. Wonderful news AND even better news for me I have secured future Sculpture Trail workshops. So there will be a new one in September! Carolyn also sent me home with a generous portion of cake! Always a bonus – perfect meeting requirements I would suggest.

A New Design (5)

On Thursday I met with Stephen Evans, one of the DAN artists involved in the Hanbury Hall event. My poem has been displayed alongside his artwork in exhibitions in January and now this month too, so far it has been part of Maltstones Exhibition, an exhibition in the Library and now in Parks Cafe.

Stephen showed me a family album from WW2 at the reading event for Hanbury Hall Poets back in November. I used it as primary source inspiration and managed to write 4 poems or so but it is a precious object and I feel much happier now he has it back.

Thursday Night I went to support Claire Walker who was headlining at The Caffe Grande Slam in Dudley. Ian Glass and I found ourselves unwittingly signed up for the slam. I don’t Slam.

It was a fun night and a great little cafe to be in on a cold night. Ian smashed the slam and won! He goes back in April to perform a 10 minute set.

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He also won the Xylophone of Mirth, but as he had driven us all to Dudley he wasn’t able to play it all the way home!

Jean Atkin was facilitating a workshop at the Bishop Castle Artsfest that I had hoped to attend, but our boiler is broken and I had to be home for the engineer. I spent most of the day at the desk writing for Verve, the boiler is still broken.

On Saturday I had a workshop with Angela France, it was a great session and I managed at least one poem and have a page of potential other poems.

On Sunday, whilst writing a poem for a Festival Anthology (more on this soon), I unearthed another line of writing I want to pursue, I have 3 pages of notes to return to at a quieter time (perhaps 2019). The exciting element is they balance something I am already working on.

The Extra Days

On Monday (after turning up for work and discovering I was a day early) I went home and wrote copy for a Worcester News Article promoting the Poet Laureate competition. Jess Charles jumped on it and it was live by the afternoon.

https://worcestershirepoetlaureateninalewis.wordpress.com/2018/02/26/3769/

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I also worked on my first ever Grants application and booked a workshop in May.

Tuesday work was cancelled, it started to snow (we have no working boiler) and I spent 14 hours completing my application. 14 hours. A steep learning curve – on evaluation I will give myself a month to complete the forms next time!

I took on a temporary teaching position for a fortnight (just in time for World Book Day) and drove in the snow! I went to see the Royal Ballet Live Screening of The Winter’s Tale (one of my favourite Shakespeare plays), a present from Mr. G’s mum for Christmas. It was amazing!

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And a special way to end the month.

 

 

 

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Verve Day 4 Sunday 18th

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Ginny Saunders

Ginny Saunders © 2018

Due to Sunday Service on the trains I wasn’t able to make it for Brum Stanza – the first event of the day. I was in time for my first workshop with the ever-amazing heroine of mine Pascale Petit. A most enjoyable and productive workshop.

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Sadly it clashed with Sabrina’s Masterclass which I would have liked to have done also. Sabrina had rave reviews too.

After the workshop I managed to catch Nymphs & Thugs – which was loud, raucous and fun, at times hard hitting. Salena Godden, Matt Abbott, Maria Ferguson and Jamie Thrasivoulou; four vital performers all rattling with the sense of urgency that makes the UK spoken word scene so exciting at present. Nymphs & Thugs is an independent spoken word record label formed in 2015 as an imprint on Heist Or Hit. They aim to champion the UK’s most vital spoken word poets.

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The first round was superb – it got a little hard for me to concentrate on everyone’s 2nd sets (surviving on just 4 hours sleep again and with post workshop brain), I ducked out just before the end of the final set to get caffeinated and give myself a breather before my next workshop with Liz Berry.

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Hannah Swings © 2018

Cabin fever had set in and I found myself outside of Waterstones for a quick stretch of the legs and fresh air. I really wanted a cosy chair and quiet corner for 10 mins R & R but during Verve that is not likely. Instead I trudged back up the stairs and went to enjoy the Lunar podcast with Roy McFarlane before heading upstairs for a workshop with Liz Berry.

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I went straight from Berry delightfully playful workshop on Tenderness, to the tail end of the Stand Up Poetry Reunion catching almost all of Luke Wright’s set but sadly none of Ross Sutherland’s.

Then I had a very quick break to freshen up before The festival Poetry Finale with Liz Berry, Nick Makoha (seen at Ledbury) and Nuar Alisdar chaired by Jonathan Davidson. It was exceptional.

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NickMakoha

 

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Then Local Legends which was a great concept and one I hope they do again. Sadly I missed Luke Kennard and Bohdan Piasecki in their Headline slots, Sunday transport and the fact that I had hit the wall. I still wouldn’t be home much before Midnight and needed to drive safely from the station.

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It was a tough call, but I have seen them before and will see them again. Not one to leave a party early usually… but when that party has been going for 35 hours… even the sweet shop couldn’t save me!

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Verve Day 3 Saturday 17th (PM)

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Stablemates is the brainchild of Jill Abram. These nights usually take place in London, but she has brought poets to Ledbury Festival from Peepal Tree

FullSizeRender-300x161 Ledbury Poetry Festival ©2018 with Roger Robinson, Nick Makoha and Seni Seneviratne and Waterstones, (Oct. 2017) with Henry Normal, Rosie Garland and Jackie Hagan of Flapjack Press… Flapjack-SM-pic

Jill brought Stablemates to Verve.

Jill leads conversation with each poet in turn and then they do a 15 minute set. Verve saw poets from Offord Road Press: with Martha Sprackland, James Brookes and Bobby Parker.

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Apart from July, August & December the Stablemates reading series takes place at The Poetry Cafe (22 Betterton St, London, WC2H 9BX) on the fourth Thursday of the month. Do go and check it out.

 

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Next came The Poetry Assembly with Jane Commane, the much awaited book launch of Assembly Lines.

A fantastic event, certainly a festival highlight!

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Bloodaxe Books ©2018

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With readings from Romalyn Ante, Roz Goddard, Liz Berry and Matt Black.

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And a book signing WITH cake!

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Introductions to Jane’s Launch by David Morley.

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The first evening event brought the Poetry Headline of three award winning poets… the wonders of Pascale Petit, Hannah Lowe and Sandeep Parmar, introduced by Gregory Leadbetter. A thoroughly breathtaking event. Loved the poetry and broke my book budget after spending a long time stroking the covers!

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Louise Palfreyman ©2018

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Day 3 finished with Outspoken Press Showcase, back for another Verve after their success last year, one of the biggest events audience talked about in 2017 and all of us in Workshops felt we had truly missed out. Back with words and spirit, introduced by Joelle Taylor the always amazing: Anthony Anaxagorou, Sabrina Mahfouz, Raymond Antrobus, Bridget Minamore and Ollie O’Neill as well as a set from Joelle.

 

An incredible way to finish a night/day of poetry.

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Verve Day 3 Saturday 17th (AM)

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I will link to the official review/blog posts over on the Verve website as soon as they are live. For now, here are some thoughts and LOTS of harvested photos. Verve © 2018 unless otherwise credited.

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^^^ This one is actually from 2017 – but demonstrates how I felt energy wise for most of the morning, on just 4 hours sleep…

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Another wild day at Verve Poetry Festival, an action packed programme and a FULL DAY of poetry. Fortunately, having survived the 4 day run of almost every event last year – this year I was prepared (Trail Mix, seat cushion, ballet pumps, a fresh t-shirt etc.), having said that, I stayed up far too late Friday night writing blog posts and overslept!

This meant I missed Cynthia Miller’s Poetry Breakfast and quite possibly some of the most creative conversations to be had about poetry.

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Plus a bit of food (it was 4 days before I had a proper meal)! I did manage to get from bed to the train station in record time and caught the tail end of the event (there was still half an hour of it, but today was a day of Workshops).

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PeyPey © 2018

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Workshop with Karen McCarthy Woolf to start the day – yes please! I won this workshop as a prize for coming 2nd in the Haiku Poetry Slam at Grizzly Pear in December. An amazing event, a fabulous prize and a good way to start the day. The forms she covered were ones I knew (but with a tired brain this was fortunate), her workshop got my mind rolling and resulted in a few works in progress. I was already inspired by the reading from the night before. I just need to book myself some writing time… may use that 20 hour lay over in the summer!

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Karen McCarthy Woolf, Sasha Dugdale & Mir Mahfuz Ali.

The City Poems Book Launch clashed with the Workshop, but I caught the very end of it. A great anthology.

 

The Verve Press had a fair amount of exciting announcements this weekend including up and coming collections. The mystery of Casey Bailey’s next publisher – solved!

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Verve Poetry Press News

From here I hit Level 6 (inner sanctum) for my 2nd workshop with Sasha Dugdale. I thoroughly enjoyed her set the night before. Her workshop looked at Memorial and writing poems for/to our unsung heroes.

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For the first time in ages I found myself unable to complete a poem in the workshop, but do have a skeleton of an idea. I was mightily impressed with the workshop poetry read, there were some highly acclaimed poets in our group.

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Offord Road Books  © 2018

By the afternoon, after such a busy morning (mentally), I felt exhausted but I went straight back to the main stage and snuck in on Stablemates Offord Road Books with Jill Abram.

 

Verve Day 2 Friday 16th

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Cynthia Miller © 2018

Another incredible evening in Waterstones. I am as excited as ever seeing National poetry friends making their way to the city. It is going to be a great weekend! Although the flip-side of that is being invited to go and socialise when you were intending on staying for the whole night of Verve. I needed to be able to split myself into 4 versions of me this evening.

There will be time for food come Monday, for the next few days poetry is my breakfast, dinner and tea!

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I will share the link to the official blog once it is live, in the meantime here are some soundbites from me and harvested material from those in possession of better phones!

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Verve Team © 2018

Tonight started with Karen McCarthy Woolf, Sasha Dugdale and Mir Mahfuz Ali talking to Jo Bell and sharing poetry from their collections. A moving experience.

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Cynthia Miller © 2018

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Louise Palfreyman © 2018
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Hannah Swings © 2018

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Louise Palfreyman © 2018

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Book signings.

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Tonight’s addition was a sweet shop! This is Nellie setting up.


Then after a short break/book signing came the Dead or Alive Slam produced by Bohdan Piasecki and hosted by Amerah Saleh.

Two poetic worlds will collide at Dead or Alive Slam at Verve, only the second time this format has ever been done. Witness a battle of words and wit as three of the UK’s leading contemporary slam poets challenge three dead poets in three epic slam rounds, judged by a panel of audience members. Who will be the victor?

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A preposterous, reason defying spoken word competition, pitting living poets against their dead predecessors, re-animated for this one night just for your entertainment. Watch Team Life, comprised of Genevieve Carver, Isiah Hull and Caroline Teague, take on Team Death, featuring Christina Rossetti, Forough Farrokhzad, and Djuna Barnes (brought to life by Tembi Xena, Lorna Nickson Brown, and Zeddie Lawal). Judges from the audience will determine who wins, assigning numerical values to poems in an entirely meaningless attempt to instill reason into an event challenging the order of things. 

In other words, this is your chance to hear poetry from six incredible poets, interpreted by brilliant performers, all in an exciting and accessible format, as part of the altogether brilliant Verve poetry festival. Do yourself a favour and do not miss this. 

The night will be hosted by the all-powerful Amerah Saleh.

– Events Page

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Cynthia Miller © 2018

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Cynthia Miller © 2018

It was a fabulous concept and a great night… I cannot reveal who won yet, but I can tell you there was dancing.

Verve Poetry Festival Live Blog

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Verve Poetry Festival Poetry Parlour

http://vervepoetryfestival.com/poetry-parlour-with-imtiaz-dharker-live-blog-nina-lewis/

and Verve Poetry Festival Hit the Ode Tech Special

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Verve Day 1 Thursday 15th Feb.

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WOW! What an amazing night that was. I was up until the early hours writing my first Verve Festival Blog posts, high on post-event adrenalin. I will share the links as soon as the posts go live. Until then enjoy these harvested clips and shots!

Poetry Parlour with Imtiaz Dharker and Hit the Ode Technology Special were superb< understatement!

Poetry Parlour with Imtiaz Dharker

Cynthia Miller Pat Edwards Cynthia Miller © Pat Edwards 2018

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Imtiaz Dharker in conversation with Jane Commane

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Cynthia Miller © 2018

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Hannah Swings © 2018


Hit the Ode Verve Technology Special

Our three featured poets for the Hit the Ode Tech Special – Tomomi Adachi, Yomi Sode & Hannah Silva – all use technology in their performances. These poets bend technology to their will, using it to inform, enhance and warp their words. They achieve what Tomomi Adachi describes as ‘an intermediary between poetry and music, and it doesn’t mean poetry plus music, its something in between.’ 

Verve Poetry & Spoken Word Festival © 2018

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Bohdan Piasecki Hosting HTO – Gaia Harper © 2018

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Tomomi Adachi pre-wearable tech. Verve Team © 2018

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Tomomi Adachi – Hannah Swings © 2018

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Hannah Silva & Tomomi Adachi -Bringing the magic. Hannah Swings © 2018

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Yomi Sode – Hannah Swings © 2018

And for those who missed it all, snippets from the amazing HTO! Enjoy!

I went home after nearly 5 hours at Waterstones with this ringing in my ears…

Verve Official Blogger Links to be shared soon.

#verve2018

 

Verve Ready!

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For the next 4 days I will mainly be living at Waterstones, Birmingham for the Verve Festival of Poetry & Spoken Word.

It was a delight last year and I am ready for the pleasure again this year. It will be amazing!

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A packed programme awaits.

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I cannot begin to express my excitement! Hoping the exclamation marks will do.

I am also this year’s official blogger for the Festival, so watch out for links to the Verve blog over the next few days, I promise it will make you feel you are there too!

Post festival I will be shutting myself away in a dark room to write a review of the entire Festival for Sabotage Reviews (as I did in 2017), all incredibly brilliant.

Come hear world-class poetry and write your own poems at our workshops and masterclasses at Verve, Birmingham’s Festival of Poetry and Spoken Word, taking place Thursday, February 15th – Sunday, February 18th, 2018 at Waterstones Birmingham. For full details of our programme and the poets that will light up the Verve stage.

© Verve Poetry Festival 2018

Thursday 15th February

18:30 – 20:00
Poetry Parlour with Imtiaz Dharker
20:30 – 22:30
Hit The Ode: Verve Technology Special
Our three featured poets for the event – Tomomi Adachi, Yomi Sode & Hannah Silva – all use technology in their performances. These poets bend technology to their will, using it to inform, enhance and warp their words. 

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http://vervepoetryfestival.com/

December Review

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The end of the year has rolled around fast this year. I feel like my feet have hardly hit the ground! There are so many highlights to 2017, I am gifting them a separate blog post!

I promised myself I would wind poeting down a little in December, especially with Christmas preparations and a house to sort. Plus I have not spent much time with family & friends this year. Now is the perfect time to reconnect. It didn’t quite work out this way, as you can imagine…

Week 1:

The end of November was busy and tiring, so I spent most of my writing day (1st December) resting and completing necessary admin tasks: I completed my next Reader in Residence activity – compiling a list of 12 Reading Challenges for 2018 for Rugby Library users, wrote a blog review for my Writing A Book Review Workshop and booked a repeat of this session for February 2018.

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I continued to work on applications, wrote a few new poems and opened Contour submissions. I got creative with cover design and started prepping the layout (issue 1 took about 4 days to master)!

Contour – the WPL digital magazine is open for the next round of submissions – February Issue.

Contour Issue 2 Preview

Contour Open Submissions

That was just day 1, week 1!

The weekend was just as busy with was a family birthday celebration, an editing group in Cheltenham, the Victorian Christmas Fayre with Mr G. and a trip to Walsall for Yes We Cant with Elvis Mcgonagall, who I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing since 2014! Long overdue. It was a fantastic night, you can read all about it here. (LINK to follow)

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http://www.elvismcgonagall.co.uk/about.htm

Monday Mr G. had a rare day off booked so we accomplished some work around the house.

Tuesday I was back to poeting and a fabulous new Spoken Word event created by Charley Barnes in Worcester, it was a good mix of poetry, spoken word and story. Polly Stretton was the delightful headliner with an assured set of eclectic mix of her work. A warm, exciting atmosphere, a good turn out and a lovely venue. Perfect. Delighted there will be more.

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Wednesday saw a workshop in Stratford which will hopefully lead to something else in January and definitely gave me two working poems which would both be suitable for my next writery idea. I thoroughly enjoy this group and the workshops always deliver some new work for me. I had planned to go to Permission to Speak in the evening, The Black Country Anthology compiled by Emma Purshouse/Offa Press was being compiled and I was really looking forward to several of the billed performers and Roy McFarlane was headlining.

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By the time I got home it was a strain to keep my eyes open and with a fully booked end of week ahead (radio, work, gig, work, stanza, book launch) I felt that I needed to give myself recovery time. Which I did… it may have taken 4 years, but my ‘sensible’ is developing. I did some prep for the Radio and had an early night.

If I forget the journey to the train station, my Thursday was an exceptional one. Helen Calcutt asked me to do Brum Radio back in 2016, we were tried to make a booking which became impossible as I was contracted to work on the days of recordings. Fast forward a few presenters and Rick Sanders has taken on the role of host. He asked me to be a guest a while back and has been busily creative matching poets up together for his shows. Today was the day. It was great fun and I have given the experience a blog post. Read all about it here. (Link to follow)

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Then after getting home I went back to Birmingham – well as far in as Selly Oak for Grizzly Pear. This night usually clashes with SpeakEasy so it took me about 3 years to make it to one and I had not made it back since. At the Verve Launch back in November I discovered Liz Berry would be headlining and immediately put the date in my diary. Unfortunately, it still clashed with a Worcester event, this time Uncorked at Bottles with Bethany (now Beff) Slim, Nick Lovell & Mike Alma headlining. I did go to Uncorked last month, so although I was sad to miss these 3 in headline spots I know I can hear them regularly on the circuit. I am glad to know Holly is better and back in her hosting role. I am sure I will get to hear all about this night soon.

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Having already made the commitment to go, I was delighted to discover Jenna Clake and Susannah Dickey on the same bill. It was tremendous to see the Shropshire contingency out in full force too as well as catching up with local poetry friends. They also had a Haiku Poetry Slam and I came 2nd. The prize was a Verve Festival Workshop – delighted! I have booked 2 already but the chance to do a 3rd, epic! I have written an entire blog here. (Link to follow)

 

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Week 2:

Friday – a day of snow and an evening of poetry, except by the time I was home I knew my mind was too tired to critique poetry so I missed our Christmas Stanza, I hate missing Stanza, but I also dislike it when I am too tired to participate properly and feel like I cannot be of assistance to others. It was the right decision as I fell asleep at 7 PM. I also wanted to be fresh for Claire Walker’s Book Launch the following evening. I think I was suffering after only managing 5 hours sleep after Grizzly Pear and a day of work in the only school that didn’t close for snow!

Saturday saw the much anticipated Book Launch of ‘Somewhere Between Rose & Black’ by Claire Walker, her 2nd V. Press pamphlet.

cwalker rose The Book has already been on sale and I resisted the urge to buy/pre-order my copy. I like to support the launches and buy one on the sizzle of the evening.

Tuesday 12th December was the Michael Marks Awards with V. Press nominated for the Publishers Prize.

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There was a Room 204 party organised in Birmingham, which I would have loved to go to. This was actually cancelled due to the snow.

Thursday SpeakEasy in Worcester, saw Sharon Carr Headline.

 

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Week 3:

Saturday was my last WWM Spark Writers Group for the year. It was also the end of Poetry Events for me before a Christmas Break. Work finished too… not that there has been a lot this term, I can count the days I have had on both hands and still have fingers left over!

I plan to spend my Christmas break preparing for an International Festival, workshops and getting some work done (writing), as well as sorting out the house.

 

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Week 4:

I did indeed manage a fortnight break from all things writing with the exception of organising The Tale of Two Cities, a Poet Laureate Transatlantic Poetry Project.

I read Cherry Pie – Holly McNish’s debut collection. I read it back in 2014 when I went to Wenlock and watched her perform for the first time. I saw her perform twice this year, once at The Hive in Worcester and once at the Town Hall in Birmingham. Love her. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book again. I read a couple of novels I borrowed from the library and started my Christmas read. For the past few years I have chosen a Christmas themed novel for the holidays. This one had all the promises of chick lit… but before the end of the first few chapters I found myself in a whole world of serious issues. About as unchristmassy as you can get! A good read though.

I sent a few poems to Angela France for an event that takes place in January, where I hope to read my poems and set about updating blog posts so when the December Review goes live (later today) there can be active links.

I also had to schedule meetings for early January with regards for several poet laureate events which will all take place before March.

It is hard to believe that I have less than 6 months left in this position! Although a lot of writing time and preparing for the International Festival is set in place post laureateship.

My desk had an annual clean up as we needed the table for Christmas Day! The laptop had a 10 day rest.

Now I am doing the final family visits before New Year and getting organised for a smooth launch into 2018.

I hope you all had a great Christmas.

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Mr G’s snowman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

March in Review

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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:

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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.

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

Week 3:

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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.

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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/

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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).

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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/

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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.

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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/

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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.

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Keep Writing x