It took a pandemic for the world to wake up to all sorts of issues, mental health is just one. There’s hope that in the future mental health will be as accepted as physical health. Today there are many events for World Mental Health Day. Whatever you do, or don’t – be gentle on yourselves and others.
Here are some helpful websites:
I encourage anyone (but especially young people) to Journal for health.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on people’s mental health. Some groups, including health and other frontline workers, students, people living alone, and those with pre-existing mental health conditions, have been particularly affected. And services for mental, neurological and substance use disorders have been significantly disrupted.
Over my morning coffee, I took great pleasure reading social media feeds and seeing all the poems people were sharing. I was lucky enough to be busy on NPD (and working from home, which is rare these days). I had hoped to post here, especially as there have been several blank months – but like most things in 2021 it was delayed.
You will recall I dived into a year of online poetry/learning in 2020 during the 1st Lockdown, there were a multitude of reasons, including my mental health. I was back face to face work in November (after 3 months of zero income, our Furlough set for only 4 months and for me was 80% of nothing as I had been off sick for a year)! So work was a battle, navigating my way through the 10 day self isolation rules and the possibility of Covid. After 9 months I was exhausted and spent most of the summer offline and away from the desk. This term work has picked up (thank goodness) after several non-existent/fallow years!
I had decided to cut back the amount of online activity but it naturally happened when the laptop was out of reach. I also tried a LIVE event and discovered I have a huge amount of anxiety about any indoor gathering other than family and work (which makes no sense but is one of those things we have little control over). Work IS the biggest risk of all, but is one I have to take/make.
So I paced down the events… however, this was NPD… so I was back to full throttle.
I loved catching up online with everything poets were doing to mark NPD and catching up with friends and not having to wear work trousers!
Just like Christmas (NPD for me/poets) a special meal is created… for me it was my mentoring session – when I booked it I had no idea it was NPD. A very brilliant way to spend an hour!
Prose poetry is something I write infrequently (I think I have managed 3 or 4), there is only one I am proud of. I do love Jennifer Wong, both her poetry and workshops. It was a last minute spot and a gift from Pen to Print! I absolutely loved spending time with Jenny and an international group (as most are) of writers & poets and I ended up with some decent material to work with!
Worcestershire Poet Laureate, Ade Couper was on FB Live for NPD, I managed to catch the video after the Livestream. There are always multiple events happening and NPD that ramps up!
Malika’s Kitchen were celebrating NPD with a special online event featuring Malika’s Poetry Kitchen contributors to the recently published Too Young, Too Loud, Too Different anthology. The event was hosted by the Director of the MPK writers’ collective, Jill Abram, and featured poets Dean Atta, Be Manzini, Soul Patel and Joolz Sparkes. And Nine Arches /celebrated in partnership with Birmingham Literature Festival with a Planetary Poetics event featuring Gregory Leadbetter, Khairani Barokka, Caleb Parkin and Cynthia Miller. I managed to catch all streams at leisure a little later on. Nine Arches had an enlightening Q&A and I loved Dean Atta talking age… he’s still YOUNG! Both events were a joy and I glad I managed to get to them, all be it in a different time-zone!
Hoping I wouldn’t have work the next day (I DID)! I stayed up late to attend a workshop in US for Ohio Poetry Day with the Riffe Gallery. A Creative Writing Workshop with Kari Gunter-Seymour (SHIFT). Another fantastic workshop, but after the first hour (bedtime) the brain fog started to get to me. I wrote some of the prompts down to try another day.
I don’t know how Santa manages to get to all those houses, it’s impossible to get to every poet or do all your social media posting on the day! CHOICEs had to be made… but I had a FEAST of a day. Huge gratitude to everyone involved.
A brand new website for Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe. Find out about all the 2021 competitions, join in with virtual open mics at SpeakEasy (9th April) and coming soon announcements for Worcestershire LitFest 2021.
4th March is World Book Day – and perhaps a day when Home-schooling parents in the UK breathe a sigh of relief at not having to find a last minute outfit, of course many schools may be encouraging the Home Learners to dress as favourite book characters and join in with the fun!
Many schools include activities to enhance the curriculum learning on Thursday. Here are some great websites and ideas from the UK:
In 2018, we were lucky enough to have Kevin Brooke as a Guest Writer at Inkspill. He writes for Young Adults and gave us a great workshop. Or maybe you have never read Kevin’s work and would like to buy a book.
You may want to write a story for the Worcestershire LitFest 2021 Competition, just 300 words on the theme of Gods and Monsters, entries are FREE. (Year Groups Y3 – Y12) Watch the video for more information.
We had a day of snow shortly after Christmas, a good thick layer to enjoy, enough to take our minds off things for a while. Christmas was different for us all this year, but through the powers of technology we managed to see/hear each other, it felt even more special to share parts of our day. Last year we were lucky enough to share a big family Christmas, like those we remembered from childhood – reflecting back on the few days we all spent together was a pleasure.
Today we are all looking forward to seeing this year out – we have fireworks to look forward to, but no parties, which means no sore feet tomorrow though!
December was a month with very little work, I delivered my last Star Centre Workshops in the series and attended lots of events. We had the final Dear 2021 session with Nik Perring, more on this when the work is realised. One of my poems made it into the book which was produced as part of this project. I completed my Beta-Reader task, attended a Mona Arshi reading delivered by the University of Worcester, it was a cracking event, it has been years since I’d seen Mona and I admire her work. https://monaarshi.com/
I enjoyed the last two Poetry Workshops with Sara-Jane Arbury & Ledbury Poetry Festival and a special poetry event at The Hive facilitated by Amanda Bonnick & Polly Stretton, a Poetry Bubble online event. Hoping they have more in the future. It clashed with the Forward Reading, organised by Cath Drake. I have since discovered it’s available on YOU TUBE, as Cath wanted to share the event with her Australian audience too. And Mr G. (as is tradition) gifted me The Forward Poetry Book 2021 for Christmas!
A LIVE recording of a selection of poets Highly Commended in the Forward Prizes, included in the 2021 anthology, who launched a book our during this pandemic year:
Colette Bryce reads from ‘The M Pages’ /Matthew Francis reads from ‘Wing’ /Maria Ferguson reads from ‘Alright, Girl?’ /Mina Gorji reads from ‘The Art of Escape’ /Cath Drake reads from ‘The Shaking City’ /Katherine Horrex reads from ‘Growlery’ /Shane McCrae reads from ‘Sometimes I Never Suffered’ /Abegail Morley reads from ‘The Unmapped Woman’ /Julian Stannard reads from ‘Heat Wave’ /Maria Taylor reads from ‘Dressing for the Afterlife.
‘The Poetry Oscars’ – The Telegraph. Buy your copy here.
Treat yourselves to watching this incredible collection of poets reading their work at the very least!
I managed to get to another Creative Writing workshop with Sheffield Libraries and have since discovered they have purchased a copy of Patience for the library, which is great news!
We had Birthdays to celebrate in our family in December, I saw my Grandma (socially distanced/ I was outside in the garden) for her Birthday – first time I have seen her since March! And Emily Dickinson celebrated her 190th Birthday at the Museum with an epic programme of events which I was still watching in the early hours. I spontaneously shared two short poems I wrote during the Tell It Slant Festival earlier this year, it was a great night. https://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/emily-dickinson-birthday-december-10-2020/
I managed to get to the USA to catch Julie Danto‘s Book Launch and reunited with some of the Worcester County Poetry Association (WCPA) poets in Massachusetts, who I created A Tale of Two Cities with a couple of years ago.
And I managed a couple of workshops with Rakaya Fetuga again. I watched the Michael Marks Awards and enjoyed Jessica Mookherjee and Sean Wai Keung at Cafe Writers, I got to the Room 204 Christmas Party and have a little catch up and a bit of pre-Christmas cheer. WLF had SpeakEasy featuring Raine Geoghegan and it was a magical Christmassy event! The next one is in February.
We had a reading to celebrate the end of the Ledbury workshops, it was a treat to hear everyone. I had some studio time in Emily Dickinson’s bedroom at the Museum, it is my 2nd visit there this year. Something very calming and slightly magical about this space.
Words Stafford had a Tanka competition – which I couldn’t resist – I love writing short form poetry. The theme was Steampunk, my research was fascinating and inspiring. 10 of us had poems chosen and were able to read at the event, sadly mine were not in the Top 3 (Prize Winners) and I love the Anti-poet, the prize was Paul’s Steampunk novel The Periwinkle Perspective – The Giant Step – Volume 1 by Paul Eccentric. It was a fun night and the winning poems were fantastic!
In the final week before Christmas I completed some Christmas writing with Nik Perring and spent an amazing night at Cheltenham Poetry Festival enjoying John Hegley and making up captions for one of his sketches, a new talent discovered (not John – I knew he drew), it was a perfect Christmas Party and not a photocopier in sight!
This week I wrote a couple of applications and I finally made some end of month submissions (NY Resolution started early) and enjoyed a night of Disquieting Christmas stories and poems with Polly Stretton at Worcester, 42.
I hope you all managed to have a good Christmas despite restrictions and the state of our world at the moment.
August was still patchy with sun and I was able to enjoy the garden. I was beginning to feel the edge of cabin fever. I slowed down online with extra events and focused on writing and reading. It was as strange as all the other months this year. I had hoped my birthday wouldn’t be in Lockdown – I’d seen and attended some awesome, creative celebrations online – I just couldn’t face the extra screen time. Mr G. and I planned to use one of the socially distanced restaurants and go out for the first time since March, but I got too scared.
I finally made some submissions. I spent hours writing applications, which were unsuccessful in results but updated all my paperwork ready for when the right one does come along!
We had a wonderful International Reading again for Cath Drake‘s Writing course Reinvent the Future – this time with Malika Booker as Guest Poet. It was another wonderful event.
Melbourne Spoken Word Festival continued, Army@Fringe hosted a Virtual Festival with lots of programmes about theatre writing, Jinny Fisher hosted another Poetry Pram event, Wendy Pratt hosted one day retreats, and PPP continued with many events and classes. I finally got to some events in New Zealand and made it back to Fire & Dust (Coventry) to see Genevieve Carver, I saw Joelle Taylor and Laura Scott at Cafe Writers. I managed to Zoom to StaffordWORDS Myths & Legends. I started attending some of the creative writing workshops held at Sheffield Libraries, they have raised a whole community online. Wonderful work. I started workshops with Nik Perring , Reader in Residence at Sheffield Libraries, who have all been great and productive. I attended a few seminars and talks.
I joined Celena Diane‘s Poets in Motion and had a great time at the Wirral Poetry Festival with Brian Wake, writing from ‘At the Circus’ prompts and artwork. Love an ekphrastic poem & poet/artists projects. I get involved with them as often as I can. I was asked to be Poet in Residence (virtually) for Cheltenham Poetry Festival.
I finished my Connect Dudley commission and Worcestershire LitFest went online. We held the delayed interviews for the next Worcestershire Poet Laureate.
So, my birthday was quiet – but we are still safe.
Five months into the pandemic and most of us know someone who has suffered. My heart goes out to all the families who’ve lost more than birthdays this year. The Lockdown is difficult to cope with – but suffering from Covid – there are no words, just huge thanks to those tasked with trying to help us.
For some reason I attempted Yoga again this month, Lockdown has made us all a little crazy, I think I did a fusion of Yoga and Pilates, basically the warm up and then filled in most of the class with exercise my back could manage.
I saw my first human being other than my mum and Mr G. since the beginning of Lockdown. It was my eldest nephew’s birthday. I stood in the garden, he stayed inside. It was the hardest not-hug to give/not give. Delighted I saw him. He couldn’t believe he was only the 3rd person I had seen since the end of March! By the end of the month I shared garden coffee with a few friends.
My actual travel/ life may have diminished to something which resembled 2019 (without the pain) but my screen life was exploding. I stretched my Zoom poetry wings further into Australia, out to New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, America and Coventry – if you have ever driven the route from here you will understand why I include that UK destination in amongst my international travel. Other local events found the wonders of Zoom and FB and moved events online. Library services also extended online content.
Poetry and writing has gone Global this year, writing is also (like baking, making sourdough, planting, painting and photography) one of the hobbies/ escapes people turned to. Even people who never appeared online have probably scribbled journals or feelings down at some points in this Lockdown. There have been wonderful local/ national/ international community projects popping up all over the place. Letter writing has become fashionable again, or at least it did before people realised the dangers of post. The world has creatively adapted. We have held each other (metaphorically) up in a year that made us all feel like we no longer had bones!
The other thing which began to take seed was the funding artists had applied for through the Arts Council. With this emergency funding came a flurry of projects and workshops. Funding was also received from other revenue sources.
PPP – (Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists) celebrated the Black Country/ Lockdown and isolation with Stay Up Your Own End– which offered people both a microscopic and magnified view of their locales as seen through the eyes of people with pens. It encouraged people who had never written before or never openly written before to pick up a pen and write. It was set up as a round of competitions, prizes included a video film produced & £25.
The judges/prompt writers for each round were local favourites of the Black Country poetry scene Richard Archer, Rick Sanders, Roy McFarlane, Kuli Kohli, and Heather Wastie.
PPP were commissioned by Creative Black Country to run a series of online poetry activities across the region.
I did workshops with Anna Saunders, Adam Horovitz, Liam Brown, Zena Edwards and joined Malika Speaks and Poets In Motion. I went to Book launches including The Estate Agent’s Daughter – Rhian Edwards (Seren), Wild Persistence – Katrina Naomi (Seren), Pack of Lies – Roz Levens (Black Pear Press)
More Festivals and Events: ART IS… Festival, Trim (Ireland), Own It! Online Festival, Wirral Poetry Festival, Cheltenham Poetry Festival, Kit De Waal Creative Writing Wonder Women, Ledbury Poetry Salon with Philip Gross & Lesley Saunders. Sarah L. Dixon moved The Quiet Compere online and created a series of reunion shows. I made video poems for Wordcraft, PASTA, performed at Fire & Dust, 42, That Poetry Zoom, Perth Poetry Club, Poets’ Cafe and watched Dear Listener. Oooh Beehive, Run Your Tongue, Yes We Cant and others. Room 204 continued to support us with opportunities.
Personal highlights for the month (other than braving the company of friends) were:
A reading for the end of Writing to Buoy Us – Reading to Buoy Us with Cath Drake. The courses drew both established and new poets in from across the world.
It was an uplifting event which featured both class groups and Australian poet Mark Tredinnick as the Guest Reader.
Writing and creativity are how most of us are continuing to process this pandemic 6 months later, the connectivity shared at this time was invaluable. It was special.
Poetry Film Live Relaunched their website and featured one of my animated Poetry Renewed Films ‘Tailspin’ to Launch it. Like every business Elephant’s Footprint have adapted during this pandemic and shifted their courses online.
Exciting talks started with the committee about moving WLF online, we were holding off in the hope the postponed annual festival (mid-June) could be pushed back to early Autumn, by this time it became apparent that Covid was going to be with us for some time.
I took part in my first online SLAM (I don’t really do the SLAM poet thing but this was in Australia and I couldn’t resist). My poems appeared in the keepsake gift book the Art Is Festival released.
I wrote down submission opportunities and promptly missed the deadlines. Seems like I have the horse ready but a little unsure of getting back on!
Worcester SpeakEasy Christmas Special – more open mics than usual and the fabulous Raine Geoghegan is our feature for the night! Come and listen/watch for free (Christmas jumpers/head-gear/ hats optional)!