Hello waters… it has been a long while! Lots has happened since the Autumn post. I am here to start 2023’s NaPoWriMo on AWF but realise that there are huge gaps of blogging and news to share. I will write on some of this in detail in May, after NaPo. Until then here are the highlights:
Blasts from the Past
At the end of 2022 I was busy working on a major project, a book endorsement and planning for 2023 WLFF Festival.
My ATOTC (A Tale of Two Cities -2017/18) project was reinstated in the summer of 2022. This was call & response poetry between poets in Worcester UK and Worcester USA as part of my Poet Laureate year. What started with the idea of an online international reading soon became a 2nd edition project with new pairings and new poems. The result was an International Reading AND a book!
The original project was anthologised digitally as it involved over 45 poets and ran to 120 pages, sadly it was too large a project to publish traditionally.
This time we worked with a smaller group of poets (20) and Black Pear Press published the resulting anthology — which I have to say is an absolute bargain, the cheapest poetry book I know of and that is NO reflection in quality either of the product or content within, it is packed with magnificent poetry. It is a not-for-profit publication and you will find it for £2.83 which converts to $3.58. See, told you!
With huge thanks to Black Pear Press and Polly Stretton for joining me on managing and editing ATOTC II.
Can’t wait for the full post? Find out more here including a link to buy a copy:
This weekend I am a Guest Reader for Brian Comber at his Book Launch. Last year I was delighted to get a sneak preview of this collection when I wrote an endorsement.
I am involved in a project with WLFF, Bevere Gallery & Yew Tree Artist Studios who are running an exhibition of Art & Poetry with a competition linked to it, an open call to poets and artists in Worcestershire.
Five Worcestershire Poets Laureate & five artists were commissioned to work on the theme ‘Enough to See… but not enough to see by’.
Anne-thology – Poems Re-Presenting Anne Shakespeare by Broken Sleep Books.
Last year I had great fun researching to write my submission for this anthology. We were limited to one poem, so I am delighted mine made it through. Packed with amazing poems, some great commissioned poets and it’s lovely to see lots of friends in there too… and of course, Will himself.
Later this month there’s an Anthology Launch in Stratford.
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.
June – we finally got our summer after perhaps the wettest May on record since 1967! The sunshine has made up for it since. The plants are finally thriving (with a bit of watering help). Festival season continues although I have made a conscious decision to calm the diary down and get back to the desk work (actually writing)!
Despite having to quarantine for 10 days, I didn’t have time to complete this post. So I will share it in two halves, like every wonderful Euro match!
HAY festival – ran until 6th June
Roxbury Poetry Festival 5th June
Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe 6th -11th June
I spent most of the week enjoying events at the Hay Festival. I blogged the 2020 Digital Hay extensively here on AWF – but this year I got to fewer events than I hoped. By the end of the week I was busy spending days organising the WLFF Festival. I managed to make Ade Couper’s Amnesty International event on Friday night. A deeply touching experience. I was quite involved with Amnesty International as a young person, it shocks me that are still having to do the same work decades later and more. I used to write quite a few social activism/political poems, I need to dust this part of my brain off because our words and actions are still necessary!
The weekend was complete madness! I discovered Roxbury Poetry Festival at the end of May and booked tickets. Three weeks before in a workshop with Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seaton, I met an Anglo-American poet, Chloe Firetto-Toomey. We collaborated together in the workshop and Maureen presumed we knew each other and had worked together before… well we are now and Roxbury was a chance for us to experience a festival together in real time! It was a fantastic programme of events and beautiful knowing we were there together. There were several simultaneous events and we had no communication over any of them* and yet we turned up attuned in each session the same.
*We did discuss going to Rachel McKibbens Craft Talk – as Chloe had sent me one of Rachel’s poems days before.
Roxbury was an amazing hybrid festival. I watched a reading, participated in a wonderful workshop, attended a craft talk reading and the Keynote Speaker Reading:
POETRY IS NOT A LUXURY Reading & Discussion with Janice Lobo Sapiago & Angelo Geter.
Hosted by the Academy of American Poets, this reading and discussion brings together the Poet Laureate of Rock Hill, SC, Angelo Geter and the Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County, CA Janice Lobo Sapiago. Poets will perform a reading of their work and engage in conversations around poetry, civic service, and landscaping spaces for youth poets.
Connecting Body, Breath, and Image: Writing Workshop
In this workshop we will connect and constellate the poet’s body to the literary image and to the poetic line.Taking a tip from breathing exercises, we will work together to create unexpected and deep images that bear our understanding of what the body can do as an antenna for our experience of being human. Central to this will be thinking through the various migrations and motions our bodies make and have a memory of making. This will include engaging the concept of home in its complexities for the poet and the poem’s speaker.
This workshop with Rajiv Mohabir was intense and generative. Some incredible things came up for me, I was so glad to have the experience and with Chloe too. So much of what we’re tackling came up in theme or thought throughout the day, it was almost as if the organisers had seen right into our minds.
CRAFT TALK W/ RACHEL MCKIBBENS
This event is in partnership with GrubStreet
As poets, we use devices to resurrect or bury, but how often are we willing to lean into our own wickedness, to give it its rightful placement as the second face of our vulnerability instead of an agent of confession? This craft talk encourages participants to bring their lunch on screen while enjoying a craft talk from poet and performer, Rachel McKibbens.
There was so much deep honesty in Rachel’s talk, that sometime afterwards in an email exchange with Chloe, I wrote the darkest, most honest work I have ever shared. Darker than any of my 42Worcester poems or anything I wrote in gloom. I have Rachel McKibbens to thank for opening that door.
KEYNOTE ADDRESS W/ JERICHO BROWN
2020 Pulitzer Prize winner, Jericho Brown, will read from his book The Tradition and answer a few questions from the audience. This talk will be moderated by a local artist.
I always love it when I am in a room with people who have never seen Jericho read live before. Such intense atmosphere and performance. I am grateful for the fortune of watching this man in action throughout 2020 and 2021. I have never seen him perform without tears, his and mine.
A truly exceptional spirit!
I saw Holly McNish & Simon Armitage at HAY. And Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe kicked off Festival week with the Launch and crowning of the NEW Worcestershire Poet Laureate.
You can read about the whole festival (link in Week 2).
For any Fast Show fans… this week I have mainly been organising and facilitating Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe Festival events. I am one of the Directors but also in charge of tech and port of call for a lot of the poets /judges involved in events. I was prepared for a HARD WORK week — what I didn’t bank on, was a week at the chalk-face too. Timing!
The whole WLFF Team worked exceptionally hard to make the mini-festival 2021 as successful as it was.
Read all about it!
Congratulations to Ade Couper – Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2021-22.
I kept things small the weekend after LitFest but did manage to have breakfast in Australia back with Perth Poetry Club, followed by a Sheffield Libraries workshop with Claire Walker and a night in America at the WWBPA with the Poet in residence 2021 – Forrest Gander.
On Sunday I went to the fabulous Black Pear Press Launch for Brian Comber and Beth O’Brien.
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.
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.
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)!
How do you rhyme “Worcester”? You bring together poets from Worcestershire, England, and the Worcester County (Massachusetts) Poetry Association. A cross-Atlantic collaboration project has resulted in exchanged poems, publication of 92 poems in “Contour Poetry Magazine” edited by Worcester, England, poet laureate Nina Lewis, and a gala reading of the poems in our English Twin City.
Now it’s our turn with “A Tale of Two Cities, Worcester — US & UK.” Brian Evans Jones, former poet laureate of Hampshire, England, will read the British poetry, and there will be readings by many of the Central New England poets who have participated in the project, including Pam Bernard, Robin Boucher, Sylva Boyadjian-Haddad, Tony Brown, Dennis Caldwell, Clair Degutis, Gordon Elliot, Patricia Fargnoli, Jennifer Freed, Claire Golding, Victor D. Infante, Maura MacNeil, Cynthia Martell, Rodger Martin, Susan Roney-O’Brien, Kyle Potvin, Eve Rifkah, Karen Sharpe, Beth Sweeney, Paul Szlosek, Henry Walters, Linda Warren, and Patricia Youngblood.
What: “A Tale of Two Cities, Worcester — USA & UK” When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 28 Where: The Sprinkler Factory, 38 Harlow St., Worcester.
The Worcester County Poetry Association and the Sprinkler Factory have joined together to host a benefit fundraiser – “A Tale of Two Cities, Worcester – USA & UK.” The transatlantic poetry project is a result of a collaboration between poets from either side of the pond.
Forty-seven poets began writing and exchanging poems with each other from December 2017 to March 2018. The poets from Worcester, Mass., wrote an initial poem and got a response poem from their partner in Worcestershire, England.
At the Sprinkler Factory, Worcester poets will read their initial poem and their partners’ response.
Months of editing and reworking these poems has left a remarkable result worth hearing from those who participated. Proceeds from this event will go toward the Worcester County Poetry Association and the Sprinkler Factory, which hosts ever-changing art exhibitions. There is a wide range of topics for the poems, from love to self-discovery.