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Review June 2018

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June this year was definitely a month of transition.

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Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

It saw my final 10 Days as Worcestershire Poet Laureate, the end of 4 years working for Writing West Midlands as a Lead/Assistant Writer for their Spark Young Writers Group in Worcester and although I am not saddened by this particular transition– I have just 3 weeks left in full time employment (which is funding my trip to Australia in the summer).

Week 1: 

I intentionally missed every poetry event this week to conserve energy for the WLF – Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe – the emotional onslaught of watching another poet taking up the mantle of Laureate and the amount of work. work I have to balance meant that there was no time or energy left to support anything else.

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I was desk busy: creating 10 Days – a sequence of films charting my final 10 Days as WPL -reflecting back over the year. These were fun to make but time consuming. Especially after uploading I would spot an incorrect frame and have to go back to the virtual cutting room floor!

Editing the final WPL Anthology Collection of Science/Maths based poems, wrapping up the Twin Town project between Voiron & Droitwich and reading submissions for the final WPL Contour (although perhaps not the final Contour).

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My WPL Twin Town project between Droitwich and Voiron went live on June 7th.

This features 9 poets from England and France exchanging poems on the town and writing responses using something in the original town poem which sparked inspiration.

The collection is bi-lingual and poetry appears in English, French & Portuguese. There is a Food Festival in Droitwich this month and I am hoping to meet Madeleine Silvestri from Voiron Twinning Association, who found the Poet Alain Graz who helped me find our French town poets.

european TT The Anthology can be read here Twin Town.

My poetry films can be found here 10 Days

 

Week 2:

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On Saturday I joined a collective of Stanza Poets in the Forest of Dean for a Heritage Poetry Project organised by Andy Hoaen. After his involvement in survey/heritage work ‘Veteran Tree History Project Speech House Survey’ he decided he wanted to create something. His vision:

I would like to see this as an opportunity for an encounter between two different ways of seeing the world, archaeology with its rigorous approach routed in scientific “objective” description of place and space, and poets with their ability to succinctly capture the essence of things and provide an imaginative subjective view on the world.

It was an interesting and fruitful day for photography and notes and now we all hope to create some tree poetry and more. There may be an exhibition or pamphlet. It was also a great day out and lovely to see some poets who are sadly missed at Stanza meetings.

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© Kathy Gee (no filters)

I wanted the Science/Maths Anthology (my final WPL Anthology) to go live before the Festival Launch and as I was (I just deleted ‘am’) the 7th Poet Laureate I scheduled the arrival for 7:07 AM!

Every Word Counts WPL

You can read the collection here.

Then it was onto the opening of Worcestershire LitFestival & Fringe.

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It was a great Launch – one of the best, although the judging panel missed the Young Writers Competition reading and the Flash Fiction winners as we were interviewing and preparing to judge the WPL competition. My fellow judges were Polly Stretton (former WLF Director), Stephen Wilson (Arts, County) & Rachel Evans (Worcestershire Young Poet Laureate).

The finalists were Peter Sutton, Betti Moretti & Sarah Leavesley and it was a close competition. It was a pleasure to hear them perform poetry  that we judged anonymously just a few weeks ago. Any one of them would have been a worthy winner and done Worcestershire proud. There can only be one winner though and this year it was Betti Moretti.

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Before the winner was announced I performed the poems which won me the Laureateship: Lit Up & Tasseomancy.

 

I couldn’t believe the length of appreciative applause at the end. It was a joyous moment.

 

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© Catherine Crosswell

I had previously joked (since about March when you have to start promoting the competition) that I was going to be the 1st WPL who refused to step down. It was Betti’s idea (for the record) but we had a little tug ‘o’ war over the award.

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It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would have been to congratulate the new WPL and hand it all over. Some relief even, perhaps.

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© Catherine Crosswell

Coffee and cake wouldn’t have fuelled another year at acceleration and it isn’t as if I am not busy.

It was a delight to be part of the event (although if I could, I would have got out of judging), part of the remit – I knew it was coming. Thought it was nice how we were up on the balcony rather than beside the stage as in previous years. This was possibly easier for the finalists. Although there is nothing easy about being a finalist. It is a hard, emotional competition.

A full review of the Launch and announcement of the New WPL here Launch of WLF 2018

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Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe dominated the week, the festival ran from 10th-16th June and was as fantastic as ever. I had to get used to not posting everything on https://worcestershirepoetlaureateninalewis.wordpress.com/ but at least the waters of the fountain are well and truly active and in full spring again!

You can read write ups of the events I was involved in:

Tuesday 12th – Night at the Museum IV – a wonderful night organised by Worcestershire Poet Laureate (2016-17), Suz Winspear – featuring Young Worcestershire Poet Laureate Rachel Evans, Former YPL Chloe Clarke, Nina Lewis Worcestershire Poet Laureate (2017-18) and the NEW Worcestershire Poet Laureate Betti Moretti in the first half and Suz Winspear in the 2nd half with her poems from the Archives to celebrate the end of her 2 year Residency at Royal Worcester. It was a marvellous evening.

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Wednesday 13th 42 Festival Special – A wonderful evening that saw the Antipoet back in Worcester, with their new book – C:/Users/HP/Documents/Writing Projects/Black Pear/Does My Bass/D published by Black Pear Press.

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© Donna Ray

In the second half a plethora of 42 regulars took to the stage for a themed night ‘The Bewitched Worcestershire Inn’.

Thursday 14th June SpeakEasy Special at Worcester Arts Workshop. Headlined by the amazing Dub Thieves, it was also Betti Moretti’s official WPL hand-over with her newly engraved WPL award. A superb night of performances and some who were new to SpeakEasy too.

 

Week 3:

Festival By The River – LitFest Take Over.

An exciting opportunity arose in the Spring to be part of the festival happening at the Weorgoran Pavilion on South Quay, Worcester. The events for the 10 day festival have been programmed by Cat Roberts. The Festival launched on Friday 15th

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and on the 16th Peter Sutton and I took to the stage and what a sparkly, wondrous stage it is!

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I spent a while creating a water based set and wrote some long awaited poems from our Canal trip (Poet’s Day Out) 2017. I had great fun compiling the half hour set.

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It was a brilliant end to my week.

I spent some time over the weekend planning the next couple of events and promoting ATOTC, 30-40-60, ARTSFEST and PoARTry. I also had a rare day off from poetry.

 

Week 3:

Started with an evening organising the Launch/ Reading Event for PoARTry Ledbury with Leena Batchelor. We already have 12 people interested in reading at the event. The next stage is to confirm dates and then we can get on with creating the schedule and marketing the event.

POARTry Ledbury coming soon

 

I finally managed time to create answers for the remaining four questions sent to me to market the Perth Poetry Festival and I started working on an interview for a new article. More on that news soon.

I promoted 30-40-60 which is soon to be rehearsed and performed again (July).

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I promoted the UK/USA readings for ATOTC which I am very excited by.

 

Ludlow Fringe Festival

logo ludlow fringe Dirty Laundry Launch with Deb Alma & Guest Poets.

I was one of Deb’s Guest Poets at this Launch along with Angela Topping, Roz Munro Derry, Holly Magill & Ruth Stacey. It was a fantastic evening and lovely to share a meal in The Blue Boar first and have a good catch up.

A full review can be found here.

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During the week I worked on interviews and poetry, organised my final WWM session and promoted Festival events.

I attended a Room 204 Workshop in Birmingham at Evolve (which back in the day was the Adam & Eve and venue for Sunday Xpress). Creative Writing to Promote Wellbeing workshop by Emma Marks & Sandra Griffiths of The Red Earth Collective CIC, was a half day event on Creative Writing in the Mental Health Setting.

A half day course for writers who want to develop or improve creative writing workshops for people with a lived experience of mental health problems. The workshop will be an experimental and engaging reflection on ideas and issues associated with running creative writing workshops within a mental health setting. © Red Earth

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It was an intense and useful workshop with plenty of participation. I have more ideas now than ever and a good network of support for future ventures in this direction.

Having missed 1.5 days of work to attend Festivals & training I hit the ground running and had a backlog of assessment marking which came home with me and sadly meant I missed Rob Francis at Dear Listener, the fault of my work schedule. test marking and the lack of time to reach the city. No guilt here – only frustration!

This is the weekend I missed 2 events I was supposed to attend and had a clash of two events too. This always makes me feel low. I wish I could clone myself and attend everything!

On Friday night I had hoped to make it to Birmingham Waterstones for the Verve Poetry Press Book Launch of Leon Priestnall and Nafeesa Hamid’s Debut collections.

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Sadly I missed it, you can read about it and find out more about these new collections here When You Miss Something BIG!

 

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BUY A COPY Leon Priestnall is something quite rare on the Spoken Word circuit – a romantic, a lost soul, with so few of the right answers and so many of the wrong ones. His poems are full of questions, not solutions, or even a step further back from that – are asking the question of what questions to ask. © Verve Poetry Press

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BUY A COPY Besharam – Nafeesa Hamid’s glorious debut collection – asks this and many other questions. When does a girl become a woman? When does her world allow her to become a woman? And what kind of woman should she be? The answers aren’t readily forthcoming. © Verve Poetry Press

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There was also a welcome return of Confab Cabaret in Malvern and they had Elvis McGonagall Headlining and I had a chance to get to Stratford Poetry Festival to see Tony Harrison. Of course neither of these events were possible as I was already committed to the Book Launch. Exhaustion is a hard thing to forgive.

Week 4:

On Saturday I headed to The Hive for my last Spark Young Writer group. It has been a pleasure to work for WWM for the past 4 years, 3 of those as a Lead Writer and I shall miss this part of my writing life a lot!

Spark YW

Afterwards I planned to go to Stratford Poetry Festival to The Black Box event, which was part of a schools/education project I worked on this Spring. My eldest nephew also had a very important birthday – plans for Sunday were rearranged to Saturday and I was already late as they started whilst I was still in my WWM session. I decided I couldn’t miss his momentous occasion and so instead bailed on watching the children perform at the festival. If there is one thing guaranteed to make you feel more guilty than exhaustion it is letting children down!

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Saturday also saw a 10th Birthday Summer Party for Nine Arches Press, having attended their celebrations before for a few years, I was gutted when I discovered this clashed with WWM and my nephew’s birthday party!

I knew I was never able to go – this did not stop me wanting to be there. Again, I have heard wonderful reviews. Sharing photos that have been shared on social media.

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#TenforNine: Nine Arches Press celebrates ten years of publishing

Join us to celebrate ten years of publishing with a series of birthday events on Saturday 23rd June at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

Saturday 23rd June at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

© Nine Arches Press will publish new work by ten poets in 2018.

(Top: l-r Aviva Dautch, Romalyn Ante, Sarala Estruch, Robert Peake, Josephine Corcoran. Bottom: l-r Riche McCaffery, Deborah Alma, Roy McFarlane, Suzannah Evans, Isobel Dixon)

There will be something for everyone:‘The Big Read In’ is a chance for readers’ groups to hear TS Eliot Prize shortlisted poet Jacqueline Saphra (All My Mad Mothers) discussing her work, followed by an exclusive writing workshop with former Canal Laureate Jo Bell as well as the launch of Josephine Corcoran’s debut collection, What Are You After? The evening will see a ‘Birthday Mixtape’ event in the conservatoire’s jazz club, co-hosted by Nine Arches Driector and Editor Jane Commane and Rishi Dastidar (Ticker-Tape) featuring favourite readings from a range of Nine Arches Press poets. © Nine Arches Press

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9 10 cake

I missed the WLF Poetry Picnic in Cripplegate Park as I had to finish marking before I could journey to Cheltenham for Anna Saunders Book Launch. I also had an opticians appointment earlier in the week and needed to take Mr. G. into town to help me decide which frames to buy. I was walking around with 9 pairs at one point!

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Anna’s Book Launch at The Retreat Wine Bar was amazing, a pure night of celebration. Her guests were David Clarke and Jonny Fluffypunk and there was an open mic section with Ghost themed poems to start proceedings. It was packed and the open mic list read like ‘Beautiful South Lyrics’.

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Full review COMING SOON.

The main focus this week was the PoARTry Ledbury project, my own writing and Book Launches, more family birthdays and Poetry Festivals. I attempted to keep my schedule free of evening events as this is the busiest time at work with lots of deadlines to meet by the beginning of July and in the current heatwave all I really want to do is feast on ice lollies and sleep!

 

The date was finally set for the PoARTry event, we decided it then spent a week trying to match schedules before finding an AGM clash with the date and reverting back to the original one, which sadly means Rick Sanders won’t be there.

We have had about half the collective sign up to say they are coming so it looks to be a great evening shaping up. Leena and I now have our work cut out developing a running order/ details of the evening. I am looking forward to it and getting extremely excited about seeing my artist’s work in the flesh. Molly Bythell was my extremely talented partner on this project and our collaboration has been bountiful. I am only framing 2-3 poems but have written close to 20!

Ledbury PoARTry SHARE

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On Thursday evening I made my way into Birmingham to David Calcutt’s Book Launch at Waterstones, which was in the Art Room, where I had my own Launch back in 2016. It was great to catch up with people and was a lovely evening. Full review here.

© Elaine Christie

Ledbury Poetry Festival is also underway, I am hoping to get across there at some point. I am definitely there on Tuesday 3rd July.

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All in all, an incredible month of ‘not being —— anymore’, getting used to just being again.

When You Miss Something BIG!

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On Friday night I had hoped to make it to Birmingham Waterstones for the Verve Poetry Press Book Launch of Leon Priestnall and Nafeesa Hamid’s Debut collections.

Sadly I was up to my eyeballs with assessment data/report writing and test marking at work and by the time 6 PM arrived I was asleep on the settee. I have heard it was an incredible night and I was looking forward to reconnecting with the city and seeing these two perform.

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Some photos from the evening.

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BUY A COPY

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Leon Priestnall is something quite rare on the Spoken Word circuit – a romantic, a lost soul, with so few of the right answers and so many of the wrong ones. His poems are full of questions, not solutions, or even a step further back from that – are asking the question of what questions to ask. In his work, he isn’t setting himself up as any kind of answer – he is as wrong as he is right, behaves badly as often as correctly. Often too confused to be able to move – beyond lighting another cigarette, taking another drink, running for the door – or speak. Often trapped inside the circle of his thoughts, which are a riot of possibilities and recriminations, what-ifs and why-nots.

© Verve Poetry Press

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BUY A COPY

Learning that your mind and body have been taken hostage is one thing. Learning how to take them back is another. What if those that are returned are different to the ones that were lost?

Besharam – Nafeesa Hamid’s glorious debut collection – asks this and many other questions. When does a girl become a woman? When does her world allow her to become a woman? And what kind of woman should she be? The answers aren’t readily forthcoming.

© Verve Poetry Press

I am sure they will both be busy on the circuit promoting these fine collections, I am still not forgiving myself for missing the launch. I am sure I will, eventually.

If you ever get a chance to see either of them perform grasp it with both hands and be ready to stomp your feet!

May Review 2018

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May was a huge month for editing and writing and marked my final full month as Worcestershire Poet Laureate, a position I have loved. Who wouldn’t want to be an ambassador for poetry? I was also juggling working full time with a full schedule.

Week 1: 

Still learning how to balance full time work with a writing career, I found a lack of energy and time were enemies to my To Do list.

My final Worcestershire Poet Laureate submission windows opened. One for Scientific/Mathematical poetry in honour of Stephen Hawking and the other for the final edition of Contour WPL Magazine, Issue 4 Celebration & End of an Era.

 

 

I spent most of the week working on A Tale Of Two Cities Special Edition Contour Magazine.

I received news of a recent submission being successful. One of my Jinney Ring Sculpture Workshop poems is to be published in Domestic Cherry Issue 6. I join many poetry friends in this issue and what is more we get to read our poems at an event in the Swindon Poetry Festival, which is great. This will be my 4th year attending Swindon Poetry Festival and it is always amazing. Last year I was booked as a V. Press poet in V. Formation, reading alongside Stephen Daniels and Gram Joels. This year I knew I was heading down after National Poetry Day (I have a booked gig), now I know I will get to read too. Wonderful.

My role as Reader in Residence for West Midlands Reader’s Network was wrapped up in an evaluation which took an incredible amount of time to write, but future funding depends on such things and I was able to use some of it in a public review for Warwickshire Libraries too. I sent reviews of Book Review Workshops and the Poetry on Demand event for the Rugby Library website.

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https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/05/12/a-word-from-nina/

I received finalist poems for the Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe Poet Laureate Competition. I have a fortnight to judge these poems. I am looking forward to discovering who the finalists are on the 10th June. This year the finals will be held at The Angel Centre – which is the 4th venue for the WPL finals.

Over the weekend I secured an interview with Kate Garrett on her recent charity venture ‘Bonnie’s Crew’, took some poems for a polish and prepared for the final WPL event at Hanbury Church.

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Week 2:

Started with a Bank Holiday and sunshine. I hosted the final WPL event, a reading at Hanbury Church of our Sculpture Trail poems from the Jinney Ring workshop. A full review of the event will be posted soon. To my delight this event has also lead to future work.

 

 

It seemed strange that this was it, as far as WPLaureating goes.

I had tight deadlines for copy, reviews, interviews and editing this week. Promotion has started for Australia – Western Australia Poetry Festival. Scott-Patrick Mitchell is responsible for a lot of the streaming online. He has sent interview questions to use as part of the Marketing & Promotion of the festival. I completed the bulk of an interview on time but had a few questions that needed a more considered response. Everything is in place for the marketing machine now though.

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I spent some time prepping Q&A for the ‘In Conversation’ event at the BMI.

I was fortunate enough to get to PTS (Permission to Speak) which featured the Poets, Prattlers & Pandemonialists taking over the hosting for the evening and featuring artists from The Black Country Broadsheet project. It was a great night of high energy hosted by Dave Pitt featuring: R.M Francis, Mogs, Steve Pottinger & Casey Bailey. I shared my NaPo poems (not all 30)! A full review can be found here

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/05/10/mighty-force-poets-prattlers-pandemonialists/

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The following night I headed over to Birmingham to the BMI (Birmingham & Midland Institute) for an In Conversation & Reading of Fragile Houses. Another fabulous night in the John Lee Theatre. Read the full review here. https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/05/12/open-conversation-bmi/

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This was a great opportunity to reach a new audience and was booked last Winter, I had been looking forward to it for a while.

I am delighted Roy McFarlane is the Poet in Residence there and look forward to his programme of events and get more involved in Birmingham again.

I planned to spend the weekend editing, I mainly slept – being a busy poet and working full-time is not easy. I did manage a good shift on ATOTC and got the main frame of the magazine complete – overcoming lots of horrendous formatting issues. Sadly I realised I had missing Bios and so put a call out for those.

I am hoping that before the end of the month we will have the special edition ready for upload.

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Week 3:

What is a perfect way to start the week? A workshop with the exuberant Ash Dickinson of course! Having missed the opportunity to do one in Burton last year I was delighted to discover that he was doing one before/for Licensed to Rhyme!

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Read the full review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/05/16/ash-dickinson-workshop-licensed-to-rhyme/

It was a fabulous evening of laughter and poetry and set me up for the week.

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Lorna Meehan headlines next month – so I need to get my diary free *although I think it falls during Worcestershire LitFest.

On Thursday I had intended to hit Birmingham at the Twisted Tongues event (usually held in Derby), however after a long day at work and with a weekend of events scheduled I did the sensible thing (very unlike me) and spent the night in the garden enjoying the end of the sun before having a relatively early night.

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I spent a lot of the week compiling the Special Edition Contour Magazine and chasing poets for photos.

On Friday I whizzed from work straight to The Hive in Worcester for a Book Launch. Cutting the Green Ribbon – debut poetry collection for Katy Wareham Morris, published by Hesterglock Press.

ctgr-poster-as-jpeg Katy was joined by Guest Readers Holly Magill, Kathy Gee and Claire Walker – it was a superb night of poetry. Full review coming soon.

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I surprised myself on Saturday by firstly forgetting there was a Royal Wedding (I was reading poetry books and working on a submission) and secondly by writing about it. I had not planned to and I know many poets balk at this sort of sentimentality – but important events during one’s Laureateship ought to be marked and so I found myself with laptop on lap, catching up with images from the BBC whilst watching the ceremony from the point of the Bishop’s Address onward and I did manage to write something.

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https://worcestershirepoetlaureateninalewis.wordpress.com/2018/05/19/the-royal-wedding/

I finished the week being a Poetry Judge at Sarah Leavesley’s Book Launch at Parks Cafe.  Sarah celebrated the launch of her new novella Always Another Twist and latest poetry collection How to Grow Matches. It was a charity event in aid of St Paul’s Hostel in Worcester and a fantastic evening (even if I did want to run away with the prizes)! A full review will be posted soon.

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Sarah was joined by Guest Readers: Holly Magill, Jenny Hope & Liz Kershaw and the night was MCed by Charley Barnes.

https://droitwichstandard.co.uk/news/award-winning-droitwich-author-to-hold-special-book-launch-at-charity-evening/

 

Week 4

The week started with a well earned day off work to fill with Poetry work. This year I was invited to be part of the Living Library event at Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College in Worcester. The event is organised annually by Librarian Linda Bromyard and enables several classes from Year 7 to come and meet real writers and talk to them about their work. Again, I will be writing full reviews of work from May soon and this event will certainly be given one. It was as inspiring for the adults as the students, I would have loved something like this when I was studying English.

 

http://www.worcesternews.co.uk/news/14543190.Authors_bring_school_library_alive/

The deadline for judging this year’s WPL finalist poems came around fast. I enjoyed reading this year’s entries, I am not so much enjoying sitting in judgement at the finals, but will part of a team of 5 judges and it is part of the WPL remit accepted last year. My hat goes off to poets who judge competitions with 100s of entries, it is a tough job.

I FINALLY gained access to the Arts Council portal (being trying since 27th April) only to find the decision was a no. Ironically the new system is more suited to individual bids, I used the British Council funding scheme a joint venture with the Arts Council. I rushed to get mine in before 1st March deadline and may have been better to wait for the new batch and changes in the system.

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Still, I took on the full time teaching role to pay for it and now I have the freedom to enjoy it evaluation free. The bid was to cover my travel to Australia for the Perth Festival and some workshops back in the UK after the event. At least I learnt how to apply for funding and also had the pleasure of analysing statistical data which shows my work this year has impacted on over 360 individuals.  Lots to celebrate.

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On the same day I discovered this failure I was also Headlining at Poetry Bites. It has been a while since I headlined a gig and it was a pleasure. Again full review waiting in a queue.

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I had to plan my Australian workshop and send a 200 marketing blurb this week. It is based on themes pulled from Fragile Houses and is going to be great. I am really looking forward to this experience and have scheduled time when term finishes to get prepared. The review of July will be simpler – it will just say…

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Preparing for Australia!

I have also been working on the final three WPL projects:

  • Contour Issue 4 WPL Digital Poetry Magazine
  • Twin Town European Poetry Exchange
  • Every Word Counts – Science/Maths Anthology

Contour Issue 4 the Celebration issue is still open for submissions until my final day as Laureate 10.6.18, I have been busy catching up with the Headliners of SpeakEasy for the interview section and have an article or two to add (new feature).

Twin Town 

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Most of the poets involved managed their poetry exchanges before the deadline, I stepped in and wrote a response poem and a Town poem in case the final poet didn’t manage it. We are now just waiting on a final response poem from a poet who received it over 2 weeks late, a June deadline has been negotiated and I have secured my good friend Nathalie Brooker to work on my French translations. This should be live in June, publication is planned for 10th June, the day I end my Laureateship.

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I spent time long listing poems from the 30 day submission window.

 

Extra Bit 

A much needed break from work, 9 days in my poetry skin.

DAY 1 of 9

I planned my penultimate WWM Spark Writers group – they are sad to see me go, they are not the only ones. My sensitive poet’s heart could crack with all these changes!

I spent some time organising the first of the UK ATOTC readings. A collaborative of 11 who will read call/response poems during the 2nd part of the evening as part of Artsfest 2018.

I made the final promo pushes for the last 2 WPL submissions. Had a lovely night at Waterstones celebrating the Launch of Deborah Alma’s new Nine Arches Press collection ‘Dirty Laundry’ a full blog post owed for that night too!

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I made it to 42 and the newly refurbished Drummonds for a night that was pure entertainment.

I finish the month with mild exhaustion and the hope that the few submissions I have managed to make this month will find themselves a home amongst pages. Fingers crossed.

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June

June sees the 8th Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe Festival, the crowning of a new Poet Laureate, the finalists in the running are Sarah Leavesley, Betti Moretti & Peter Sutton. The Launch takes place on the 10th June 2:30 pm at the Angel Centre, Worcester and sadly will mark my last day as Worcestershire Poet Laureate.

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Photo by burak kostak on Pexels.com

Other events to look forward to are: Meet the Authors, Stanza in the Forest of Dean for a Forestry/Poetry project, the rest of the WLF Programme, I am performing on Tuesday at Night at the Museum, Wednesday at 42 Special with the Anti-Poet, Thursday at SpeakEasy Festival Special and Saturday as part of The Ring Project.

I am performing as part of Ludlow Fringe Festival, have my final ever WWM Spark Young Writer Group, attending the Stratford Poetry Festival for the schools project with Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, attending and performing at a few book launches and finishing the month with Ledbury Poetry Festival.

At the desk I am working on a current manuscript, prep for Perth Poetry Festival (Australia, not Scotland), Contour Issue 4 Digital poetry magazine, The Twin Town Poetry Anthology & a collection to mark the passing of Stephen Hawking featuring Science/Mathematical poetry Every Word Counts.

Plenty of work to absorb the extraction of my Laureateship! And who knows in between I may even get to write and sleep!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

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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.

 

 

 

Verve Day 4 Sunday 18th

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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 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/

October Review (better late than never)

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Just before we reach the halfway point of November I thought I would get my head down and tell you about last month!

October was such a whirlwind month. An abundant welcome into the winter and came with the realisation that I have not submitted anything for 5 months (I have organised enough WPL events to fill 100 pages of my notebook) and written more commissioned poems than I can count on all my fingers and toes… but this is something I want to get back to before the end of the year. So now I will find some extra time to carve out, December is looking good!

WEEK 1: 

I wanted to go to Kim Moore’s workshop at Buzzwords, but I didn’t get back from my stint in London at the Poetry Book Fair/Free Verse in time. Well technically, I could have detoured to Cheltenham in time but energy levels were so long I didn’t think I would manage the late drive home or even stay awake for writing and my brain was as tired as my body. It was amazing according to everyone who was there and having taken her workshop at the Verve Festival in February, I don’t doubt it!

I had my Adam Speaks Treehouse poem accepted for the NT project at Croome Court. With NPD, Credo and then hot-footing down South I had forgotten the deadline on this writing, which was already tight. This was the first poem I was forced to send on my phone, thank goodness it was a submission in the body of an email. I had to send it from Free Verse and it was a definite last minute submission. Fortunately, I didn’t look too rude doing so as the hall was packed with poets live tweeting.

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© Croome Court/Adam Speaks

I had a school workshop planned which sadly had to be postponed, I look forward to this in 2018 although I expect to change my plans to fit the curriculum topics in the Spring Term.

Then I went down to Swindon for the Poetry Festival, now in it’s 5th year (and my 3rd). I cannot express how much I love this festival. This was my first year of stewarding, generally I buy festival passes or lots of events tickets and arrive as a punter, network, drink and absorb poetry into my very core. I knew working on the team would make this experience completely different but I also knew it was a solid team to be part of and saw volunteering as the biggest thank you I could give.

I was also booked to perform V Formation with fellow V. Press Poets Stephen Daniels and Gram Joel Davies (also notably on the team).

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Some of the team and performers at the opening event POEMS ALOUD Artsite, Number Nine Gallery, Theatre Square, Swindon

V FORMATION – POETS of V. PRESS RJ Museum Tent-Palace
A celebration of three new and exciting voices in British poetry: Stephen Daniels, Gram Joel Davies and Nina Lewis.
Stephen Daniels is the editor of Amaryllis Poetry and Strange Poetry websites. His debut pamphlet Tell Mistakes I Love Them was published in 2017 by V. Press. Gram Joel Davies lives in Devon and his pamphlet, Bolt Down This Earth was V. Press’ Forward Prize nominee for 2017. Nina Lewis is Worcestershire Poet Laureate and her debut pamphlet Fragile Houses was published by V. Press in 2016.

Our readings were on the 1st night and the event went well, was well attended and people were still talking about it a few days later.

Swindon Poetry Festival needs a blog post and I will write a full review as soon as I can find time to do so. Another case of better late than never!

 

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Highlights in brief:

WORKSHOP: The Dynamic Poem Holiday Inn  With Daljit Nagra
Poems can sometimes seem flat and lack vigour, they can drift along in a dreamy mood without any conviction. Daljit will explore with examples from contemporary poetry how to put the fizz back into a poem. Participants should expect to have attempted at least one new lively poem!

READINGS RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
Poke into the poetry box! Treasures of the heart, inca-named stardust, and various severed body parts! An hour of humour and water with Sue Rose, Emma Simon and Simon Williams.
Emma Simon won the Prole Laureate poetry competition in 2013 and loss, love & severed body parts scatter through her first collection Dragonish (The Emma Press). Simon Williams latest collection, Inti, was published in July. Sue Rose is the author of three poetry collections. Heart Archives was published by Hercules Editions in 2014.

POETS & PUBLISHERS RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
Discussions led by poet Carrie Etter with two prominent poetry editors, Amy Wack and Mary Jean Chan. Come and join a discussion about what it takes to get published.
Carrie Etter is a Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Her most recent collection, Imagined Sons (Seren, 2014), was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award in New Work in Poetry by The Poetry Society.
Since 1990, American expatriate Amy Wack has edited Seren Books’ multi-prizewinning poetry list. Her own poems have appeared in various journals, most recently a 12-part poem inspired by feral cats in Spain in Long Poem Magazine.
Mary Jean Chan, from Hong Kong, is shortlisted for the 2017 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem and is Co-Editor at Oxford Poetry. Her work has been published in The Poetry Review, Ambit, The Rialto, The London Magazine, Callaloo Journal.

WORKSHOP: Call and Response Sun Inn With Rishi Dastidar
We’ve all been to workshops where we’ve been inspired by other poems, maybe visual art too, and then written in response to them. So what happens when we use pop songs instead? That’s the simple premise behind ‘Call and Response’, where some great music will hopefully provide great inspiration for writing poems. Just bring some paper, pencils – and your ears.
Rishi Dastidar is a fellow of The Complete Works, a consulting editor at The Rialto magazine, a member of the Malika’s Poetry Kitchen collective. His debut collection, Ticker-tape, is published by Nine Arches Press.

and more…

During the festival I missed the beginning of Birmingham Literature Festival and a meeting with the poets involved in the Elgar Poetry Project.

Week 2: 

Swindon Poetry Festival and the highlights of the weekend. An amazing end to the festival was Monday morning, breakfast with Daljit and then Breakfast and Poetry over at the Tent Palace as our festival finale.

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I got back on Monday afternoon and Monday evening was straight out to open mic at Licensed to Rhyme in the new venue Cafe Morso, Barnt Green.

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Fergus McGonigal was headlining, so good to see him again and to see him back on the circuit with his new book, now one of my new shiny books too!

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As WPL I was busy gathering submissions for World Mental Health Day – as Mental Health Week started when I was in Swindon and I had been hit by the dreaded Swindon Lurgy! Which meant I missed most of the events at Birmingham Literature Festival that I planned to go to!

I was also organising the Hanbury Hall Project for poets to go and write about artwork displayed in the Long Gallery by DAN. The Gallery opened on the 10th and the exhibition ran until the 29th and they had over 3300 visitors, only 15 of which were poets!

Not as WPL but as a poet I was also busy preparing INKSPILL – our online writing retreat.

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I missed tons of events being ill (proper ill with blankets).

Week 3: 

I made it back to the edge of health in time to perform as WPL at the SpeakEasy event for Mental Health Day at Cafe Bliss, this is a wonderful annual event which brings together speakers from a variety of Mental Health and Wellbeing backgrounds, agencies such as The Samaritans and this year The Shaw Trust and of course local poets.

It was a very moving experience and a good afternoon. I also received submissions for the World Mental Health Day Anthology from participants. I love it when the WPL projects reach local people through events and radio broadcasts. I made the decision to keep the submission open on the Mental Health collection for the duration of my tenure. We raise awareness of it a few times a year through these calendar events, but actually it is everyday living for 1 in 4 (official statistics were 1 in 5 but recent NHS figures show 1 in 4).

The following day after dragging myself around a D.I.Y store with Mr G. I diagnosed myself healthy enough to venture into Birmingham to catch Joe Cook and Hollie McNish at the Town Hall. This is the 2nd time this year I have seen Hollie and she was as wonderful as ever. It was also the 2nd time this year I gave up on queuing to meet her. I met her several times in 2015 and I know I will get my new books signed one day!

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© Birmingham Mail

I had planned to get to Wellington Festival, but I still wasn’t 100% well and also my car was slightly damaged over the weekend.

I made it to Hanbury Hall and was able to meet up with the Cheltenham contingency of poets (well, some of them). I took plenty of photos and notes and ended up writing 8 poems – 6 of which will make it public.

Flapjack-Flyer-Pic.jpg

On the 18th I was back in Birmingham for Stablemates at Waterstones. Jill Abram always sends me an invite to these London events, so I could hardly refuse when she brought it to the Midlands. It was a fantastic night. I really felt uplifted by the end of it. It was also a chance to finally meet and watch Rosie Garland who I have heard so much about. I got to see Jackie Hagan again (last time I saw her was at Hit the Ode) and listening to Henry Normal was a pleasure, I love the fact his is Oscar nominated and a BAFTA winner and has yet returned to his first love of poetry.

I started to promote my first WPL event for children, which had been in the pipeline for a while. The WLF team produce a Halloween Event for LITtleFest at St.John’s library which along with the usual storytelling, pumpkin carving and treats I included a Writing Workshop for 5 – 9+ years old.

LitFest Halloween 2017 poster

I also had a call out for Halloween Poem Submissions which needed a push.

I spent the tail end of the week working on the Elgar Poetry commission (WPL).

 

Week 4 

I had my 2nd writing meeting with Spark Young Writers at The Hive, we had a go at our own spooky theme and also had the new WWM Operations Assistant, Heddwen Creaney come to visit our group.

I spent 4 days busily researching Elgar and completing 14 new poems for the event in November.

I spent some admin time organising festival events for 2018.

I worked on my WMRN role as Reader in Residence for Rugby Library organising next month’s Review Writing Workshop.

I had my WPL spot on BBC Hereford & Worcester with Tammy Gooding, talked about the Elgar Project and Mental Health. I shared my poem ‘First Steps’ from Fragile Houses.

In the evening I enjoyed dressing up for Halloween (I looked like a Gothic Librarian – but what I wanted was Suz Winspear our first Goth Poet Laureate) and went to 42. It was rather cramped as we were in the Lunar Bar upstairs and it was a great turn out for the night. It also gave me a chance to promote the Halloween submission call too.

I missed Jenna Clake’s Book Launch of ‘Fortune Cookie’ in Birmingham, which I was gutted about but I also asleep by the time it started. So the right call was made!

We had a Stanza meeting and then it was Week 5!

 

Week 5 

INKSPILL of course, which needs no introduction around here… our 5th annual online writing retreat – it is mad to think we have been going for as long as Swindon Poetry Festival! This year’s Guest Poets were Antony Owen & Stephen Daniels, both fellow V. Press poets, although I hadn’t realised that until after the booking.

It was a massively successful and fun weekend. Take a look at the programme page if you missed it and you should be able to navigate through from there using the menu tools on screen.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/10/27/inkspill-2017-programme/

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It was also the Halloween Event at the library – where my workshop was attended by children aged 4 to 12, all enjoyed themselves and watched me, dressed as a witch attempting to fly around the room. They did ask why my face wasn’t green and I told them all about the family tea party I was going to afterwards.

It was fun and the most exhausting WPL event yet!

On Sunday I spent a long time creating the first issue of the WPL Magazine Contour – submissions all about Place/Worcestershire closed at the end of August and since then I have been sifting through work. Fortunately during some local research I discovered Philip Halling and we were able to use his images throughout the magazine with a few additions from local poets.

 

The end of the DAN Exhibition at Hanbury Hall was marked with a closing celebration on the 30th which Polly Stretton was invited to read her poem ‘Curves’ at. Polly won a competition created by Peter Hawkins (Chair) to find a poem for the closing of the exhibition. I sneaked one of mine in as WPL/Organiser of the poetry part of the project.

The artist for my piece was there, Stephen Evans and I am delighted that he will be using my work alongside his painting in his next exhibition in December.

I successfully completed a WPL Productions Poetry Film to show off the Halloween Poetry Submissions and added some prose as a one off Poet Laureate special to the blog.

 

 

RELATED LINKS: 

More on the Adam Speaks Launch day next month.

Adam Speaks National Trust Launch Event

Buy your copy of Fergus McGonigal’s new book here

http://burningeye.bigcartel.com/product/everyone-is-now-unhappy

November Update

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November is nearly halfway through. The diary is full and we are fast approaching the busy home season too. 

This week events run back to back and there are some that I will sadly have to forego to make sure I keep my head above water and sleep! 

LtR

Tonight is Licensed to Rhyme with Ash Dickinson. I am delighted that a poem which was inspired by a conversation with him earlier this year, is finally ready to perform this evening. 

L2R

 

Tomorrow is the almost-conclusion* of the WPL Hanbury Hall Poetry Project. 18 poets signed up to visit Hanbury Hall over 3 weeks in October during the DAN Art Exhibition in the Long Gallery. Poets used the artworks to inspire writing.

hanbury hall LG malcolm ross

© Malcolm Ross 2017

Since then Polly Stretton and I went along to the closing ceremony to share our poems. Polly’s poem ‘Curves’ won a competition to find a reader for the event judged by Peter Hawkins (Chair) and mine was slipped in as the organiser and Worcestershire Poet Laureate. 

 

This Tuesday Parks Cafe will host 9 of the poets, our reading is accompanied by the artwork on screen and I am very grateful to Rosie Philpott for coordinating that side of the event. It is FREE and I hope many of the artists will be able to attend. 

Parks Cafe Hanbury Poems

 

* Some of these poems may appear in the next issue of Contour the WPL Digital Magazine (Spring Issue – February)

I am organising an exhibition of the poetry along with photos of the artwork that inspired them in 2018 at Hanbury Hall in the Long Gallery – which will be the eventual conclusion of this project.

Wednesday is a poetry outing – a few Worcestershire poets are heading over to Smokey Joes in Cheltenham for Poetry Cafe Refreshed. I haven’t made it back since I headlined in 2015, so well overdue a visit! 

smokey joes

Thursday sees the 7th Anniversary of Hit The Ode – a special event taking place in Waterstones this month. I am keeping everything crossed that I have time after work to make it there. I love this event and haven’t been able to make one since they started back after the summer. They always feature National and International Headliners.

Featuring:
From London, Shadè Joseph
Shadè Joseph is a 23 year old Writer/Musician from East London.
She has been writing/performing poetry and producing, composing and accompanying musicians singer/songwriters and poets for the past four years and worked alongside the likes of London Symphony Orchestra, Ayanna Witter -Johnson
Caleb Femi, Tolu Agbelusi, Tshaka Campbell and Buddy Wakefield. When she’s not doing all of that good stuff she’s probably somewhere laughing or dancing or eating plantain chips or giving someone a hug.

From Northampton, Roger Robinson
Roger Robinson has performed worldwide and is an experienced workshop leader and lecturer on poetry. He was chosen by Decibel as one of 50 writers who have influenced the black-British writing canon. He received commissions from The National Trust, London Open House, The National Portrait Gallery, The V&A, INIVA and Theatre Royal Stratford East where he also was an associate artist.

He was shortlisted for The OCM Bocas Poetry Prize and highly commended by the Forward Poetry Prize 2013. He has toured extensively with the British Council and is a co-founder of both Spoke Lab and the international writing collective Malika’s Kitchen and is an alumni of The Complete Works. His New and Selected Poems is soon to be published on Peepal Tree Press.
He released two albums with Disrupt on every reggae lovers favourite label Jahtari in 2015 and is a founding member of King Midas Sound on Ninja Tune.

From New Zealand, Penny Ashton,
Penny Ashton is New Zealand’s own global comedienne who has been making a splash on the world stage since 2002. She has performed over 600 solo shows and has sold out from Edinburgh to Adelaide to Edmonton. She has represented both New Zealand in The World Cup of Theatresports in Germany, and Australasia in a Performance Poetry Slam Tournament Tour of the UK. She has also performed poetry by invitation at The Glastonbury Festival, her solo musical Promise and Promiscuity at The Jane Austen Festival in Bath and has reported from the Miss Universe Pageant in Las Vegas.

hit 1

On Friday Jack Crowe has organised another extravaganza – I heard so many good things about the first event of this kind (February 2017) and I would like to think by Friday I may have grown wings to fly back into the city. However, looking at the schedule as I type I am having palpitations. 

funk

This event happens at The Edge in Digbeth 7:30 -10:30 PM

If you go on the back of seeing it here – let Jack know, especially if I don’t manage to get there myself, he will be happy that I sent you to the door. 

Funkenteleky, in which four poets and four musicians wake up together.

*they combine live on-stage at The Edge, in a unique, one time only, funky, verby spoken potion which makes y’all do a dance in your minds.

*it’s Birmingham’s most irregular Poetry and Music collaboration night, and it’s gonna be well fun.

Doing this this time shall be:

FERRIS / LEE / WEIR

are an organ trio of critically acclaimed musicians: Dave Ferris on organ, Ben Lee on guitar, and Billy Weir on drums. The name of the band is their surnames, we notice. Expect Latin grooves, New Orleans shuffles, mind-boggling improvisation, and a set of their own inspired tunes to close the night. Don’t expect acid-skiffle space thrash, but equally don’t be surprised if it happens. For Funkenteleky the band will be joined by a player of brass, who will remain mysterious, silhouetted in these pixels, an untapped funk spring.
“I love this kind of grooving, funky organ trio music, and last night Ferris/Lee/Weir took it to new heights of originality, creativity, imagination, feel and chops.”
We can’t wait. https://billyweir.com/ferris-lee-weir/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6shj9zpF1I

LEON PRIESTNALL

is one of Birmingham’s best poets. His work scatters back and forth between the observational and the vulnerable, humorous and raw. Bearing his heart in lines of tongue twisting insight, Leon tells us stories of love and betrayal, and stories of innocence and bliss. The host of Howl, the city’s hippest poetry knees up, we’re thrilled that he’ll be treating us to a unique performance of his own work. A headliner at events such as Hit the Ode, Level Up, Grizzly Pear and more, he is a consummate performer who lives and breathes spoken word. He’s awesome, basically.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQvLIcujRkI

BETHANY SLINN

loves the po. She combines political commentary with small moments, using sensory imagery s k i pping with movement to depict individual and collective urban experiences. She makes the truth vivid and the vividness true. She’s done so at Verve Poetry Fest, Level UP!, Howl, Stirchley Speaks and Shanty Town and is currently focusing on building Agora Poetry, a platform for spoken word and storytelling inviting underrepresented voices into the room. Never-stop-being-curious.
Bethany Slinn- Poet https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qddLIvHI008&t

TARIK ROSS-CAMERON

crafts stories of his experiences in Birmingham, mixing warm humour with authentic social observation. He has honed his talents in headline slots at Howl and Stirchley Speaks. On the 25th of October he launches his new collection ‘Do What you Can’, commissioned by Punch Records, Arts Connect and the Gallery 37 Foundation. In 2016 he was part of the Hippodrome’s B-Side Hip Hop Festival, showcasing his poetic propensity for rhythm and rhyme. He’s a Brummie of whom the city is very proud, and we can’t wait for him to light up the Funkenteleky stage.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leyl2zLAfYQ&list=PLHtPk-aPh1AaNJIX37Kv47sq5ALe0UBXn

ANDY OWEN COOK

is a writer, theatre maker and friendly human from Sheffield. He has performed and made work for and in Theatre Deli, Arts Depot, Camden People’s Theatre, Wardrobe Theatre, Glasgow School of Art, Flim Nite, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Bradford Poetry City, and elsewhere. Currently he’s touring a performance called The Church of Jim, after a successful month of performing it in one place, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. State of the Arts gave it five stars, calling it “weird, wonderful and somewhat outrageous… from terrifying and bizarre, to beautiful and hypnotic.” Andy once said ‘rimming’ in a poem on BBC Radio Sheffield. Outside of poetry, Andy is a hysterical railway signalman, and you are a glistening moon. He is a wristwatch with no strap and you are a magnifying glass, kindling a fire purely from the thoughts of winged squid scudding to the cities of humans to warn us of ourselves.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3_Nm421q7w
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEuRnEJbRNI&t=2s

 

Saturday I will spend the morning with my Spark Young Writers Group (another reason I may not make it to Funkenteleky). In the afternoon there is a Room 204 workshop that I hope to attend. 

And next week looks just as full! 

Happening this month:

Verve Poetry Festival V.I.P Launch, a WPL meeting for a new community project, WPL radio interview BBC Hereford & Worcester with Tammy Gooding, Burning Eye Books Event, A Night of Music and Poetry at the Jinney Ring, the conclusion of the Croome Court Adam Speaks Performance and 42.

My WMRN role at Rugby Library is also active with the public now. I shall be facilitating my first workshop at the end of the month. 

wmrn review writing workshop

In addition to all this I am trying to secure work and focus on my own writing and submissions after submerging myself in the Poet Laureate role for the past 5 months. 

There are patches of the blog which need updating. I will get to them as soon as I can. I am planning some time out from the circuit in December (fortunately it winds down a little anyway).

RELATED LINKS:

https://worcestershirepoetlaureateninalewis.wordpress.com/2017/11/08/hanbury-hall-poetry-at-parks-cafe/

https://worcestershirepoetlaureateninalewis.wordpress.com/2017/11/03/art-down-words-up/