Category Archives: workshops

Review of January 2021

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We continued to have snow in the beginning of the month and towards the end of the month. We had to contend with Storm Christoph and many areas of the UK (including this county) were flooded. It was often cold and frosty! Close friends contracted Covid, fortunately none were hospitalised, all are either recovering or recovered. One family saw it soar through inter-generationally. Closer to home, Mr G. who has been out to work for all 3 Lockdowns had to self isolate for 10 days after an employee caught covid. Fortunately, he’s all clear.

January saw a balance between much needed paid work and writing, for a day at least and then we went into the 3rd Lockdown. My contract was eventually renegotiated and I went back to work out there.

WEEK 1 & 2:

I am working on a couple of projects which took chunks of January time. I took a booking for a Reader Series in March in the USA, which was then rearranged for January!

I sent some submissions. By the 2nd Jan.I had 2 new poems published and by some miracle (December submissions) by the 7th Jan – I had 7. This almost makes up for 2019/2020! Then I had a break of 3 weeks which dragged me over some deadlines. At the end of 2020 I was approached for work in two anthologies.

A portion of my time is now spent typing up notebook poems from last year and I have been sending these through the editing mill. In one of these editing groups I discovered the joy of the Muppets doing Robert Frost! After watching it I have a vague recollection of seeing it before, when I was too young to get the poetic reference.

I signed up to some new classes for 2021 which will continue as a year of Learning (which is what I decreed 2020 as), but unlike Lockdown times I also need to get the house straight so shall not be returning to a full time life online. I have classes and workshops rolling over from last year with Judith Redwing, L.A Marks and Celena Diane, all in the USA and Rakaya Fetuga in London. I love working with and listening to International poetry, I have always enjoyed reading translated poetry, even in my teens. Most events attract global audiences nowadays which is silver lining to poetry on Zoom (and other platforms).

I saw Sean O’Brien, Joelle Taylor and Memoona Zahid Live at The Butchery, which was a lively and fabulous event. Martin Figura and Helen Ivory are masters at making the hosting and organising of such feats look easy! Luke Wright and Jennifer A McGowan wowed audiences at Yes We Cant, PPP did their usual sterling job of providing a thoroughly entertaining, high energy evening!

During the week I saw David Clarke at Crafty Crows, it was a great reading and I finally made sense of the numbering in some of his latest work. It was a wonderful chance for people to hear current work before it makes it out in book form (which I am almost certain it will). It was lovely reading comments from people who had not had the pleasure of hearing David read before. It was also great to hear an extended set by Catherine Baker.

I was excited to return to Fire & Dust the next evening featuring Clive Oseman , it was great fun and I felt a real sense of reunion. Helen Ivory & Martin Figura featured at Poet’s Cafe, another incredible evening.

The week was finished off with news of a project going LIVE. Read all about it here. Dear 2021, The Start of It was part of Sheffield’s Year of Reading & the BBC The Novels that Shaped our World, it stemmed from a two part workshop with Nik Perring who was Writer in Residence at Sheffield Libraries.

It was great fun and some of our poems were selected to be part of the book which marks this project. I have seen the book online and am waiting excitedly for a copy. Dear 2021

I was accepted for a workshop with John Brantingham later this month and after several unsuccessful applications in 2020, I made one that was accepted! The weekend was spent back in Sheffield Libraries with the Poetry sharing group and in the evening I hot-footed over to America to join the Ohio Poetry Association (OPA)for a few hours on a workshop with Diane Kendig. This was a thoroughly absorbing experience, one I felt lucky to be part of. It finished off the notebook I started in December. A sparkling new notebook for January then, well almost. I am working my way through shelved stock, it was one bought 15 years ago.

To finish the week I went on Cath Drake‘s Refresh 2021 class. I knew the mindfulness was just what I needed and by now I had news that my contract in the real world had been reinstated and that I was due back in work the next day. So I double needed these few hours. It was a heart-warming experience in a supportive group and I loved the meditation. I had a workshop with Sarah L.Dixon and wrote a poem from a wondorous prompt.

Week 3

I intentionally attempted to do less writing events this week, I was working all week and needed some down time and my creative projects need full focus at the moment, which is another reason I let submission deadlines slide. There are only so many plates you can spin!

I listened to advice and found motivation from Rommi Smith, Jo Clement, JT Welsch & Hannah Bannister at the Northern Writers’ Awards and spent an evening with Sarah L.Dixon & Tom Sastry at Cafe Writers. Later in the week I spent a wonderful couple of hours enjoying Zelda Chappel‘s New Beginnings class, again a great group of writers. Followed by the Poets in Motion, where I discovered my Reading Series slot was to be later this month. I spent a wondrous night with Rosie Garland. Love her performance, poetry and enthusiasm for her publishers, Nine Arches Press. This event was from Trafford Libraries. By now work in the real world was well underway and it was a challenge not to be asleep by 7PM! I also dedicated some writing desk time to myself to whittle away on the projects.

The weekend saw a plethora of events: I went to Redwing‘s Food for Thought Cafe and Oooh Beehive, Clive Oseman and Nick Lovell had booked none other than Elvis McGonagall! It has been more than a year since I last saw this King of poetry in action and it was a real treat! I did Rakaya Fetuga‘s workshop and learnt a lot about forging. On Sunday I had double events. I wanted to catch Marvin Thompson at Cheltenham Poetry Festival’s event also featuring Simon Alderwick but it clashed with RYT – I haven’t made it to Run Your Tongue and I missed seeing everyone and Dominic Berry was headlining. I hate it when events overlap but I also hate missing out and choosing.

Week 4:

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Nearly two weeks of real-world work, which feels like months and evenings are harder to stay energised enough to fill with anything other than sleep. However, I had booked events before the contract was renewed for Lockdown and wanted to go to as many as I could manage.

At the end of December I was asked to contribute to two anthologies, the news of launch dates came through, more on this soon, exciting! As well as weekly classes I filled myself with the poetry of: Manuela Moser, Padraig Regan, Stephen Sexton at Poetry at the Lexicon, R.M Francis at Dear Listener, Richard Skinner, Bernard O’Donoghue and Anna Saunders at the Book Launch of Feverfew, Anna’s new collection. The weekend reading was by Dante Micheaux and I discovered Chrysalis and caught Inua Ellams in action. I finished the week at Culturama and had some poems workshopped with John Brantingham, who is also taking part in the Reader Series next week on the 27th.

Later on the same evening I attended a very special event hosted Susan Roney-O’Brien, a tribute reading for Patricia Fargnoli, Celebrating Pat Fargnoli. Pat (and many of the WCPA poets) took part in my Transatlantic Poetry Project in 2018, A Tale of Two Cities. It was a moving experience hearing a multitude of voices reading Pat’s work and I had not expected Pat to be able to read some too. It was an honour and a blessing to be there.

Week 5

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My main focus was to prepare my hour for the Reader Series this week. The great element of this event is you get to talk about the story behind the poems as well as read them. We each have an hour in a back to back series from 10:30am (PST). Unfortunately this series has been postponed until February and I am not free for a booking before April. I will be ready for whenever it is rebooked though. I also had one day where I slept after work for 5 hours and was too tired to boot the laptop up!

Over Lockdown 1 I enjoyed some of the Creative Conversations provided by Glasgow University. Earlier this month I discovered they were still programmed and can just about get home from work in time to catch some of them. Monday’s Creative Conversation was with Hannah Lavery. Hannah Lavery is a Scottish short story writer, poet, playwright and performer. Her poetry and prose has been published by Gutter Magazine, The Scotsman Newspaper, 404 Ink and others. Her poetry pamphlet, Finding Seaglass: Poems from The Drift was recently published by Stewed Rhubarb Press (May 2019). © National Theatre of Scotland

It was an enjoyable hour, a fantastic discussion and her poetry pamphlet, Finding Sea Glass is now on my wishlist!

I also attended a workshop with Sarah L. Dixon, which, as usual was great. Except I had tidied up my bookshelves and then we create book spine poems. I used the nook upstairs rather than piling all my books again in the lounge! It was a full afternoon and evening schedule. I received an email which tipped me off to a Talk by Don Paterson. I couldn’t resist the title (he claimed this is why he called his lecture this) ‘Why Bad Metaphors Destroy Everything’. In a few months I am rolling out some work around metaphor so that’s another reason my interest was peaked. This talk was from St Andrew’s Alumuni and is available online. Following this I went to the Brittle Star Magazine Launch, it was an enjoyable hour of poetry and a lovely launch. The lockdown has enabled us to attend lots of magazine launches which usually take place too far away to travel to. I set an alarm for Midnight and joined many people who were watching Poetry In America An Evening with Two Poet Laureates of the United States: Natasha Trethewey and Joy Harjo. Which was a moving experience.

Another wonderful magazine launch this week was the Poetry Review Winter Launch with the Poetry Society. Emily Berry was the Editor for this issue and we heard readings from four contributors: Graham Mort, Meredi Ortega, Rushika Wick and Jason Allen-Paisant.

Copyright © 2021 The Poetry Society

It was a powerful reading and a great way to spend an hour. I particularly enjoyed listening to Jason Allen-Paisant who wove a soulful magic with his words.

I have read the Poetry Review for years but it is special to hear the words from the mouths of the creators.

I am finishing the month with clashing events. Jane Hirshfield & Rachel Eliza Griffiths at Hudson Valley Writers and Rick Mullin & Nicca Ray at GWFM.

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It always feel inappropriate to post about loss this way, especially tagged to the end of a review of the month. But I don’t feel I have the words to write more and as with other poetry friends I have lost this way, testimony has been posted elsewhere. I also feel I can’t get through looking back on January without this being here. Sadly, we lost a friend, a big part of our poetry community this month. It is a tragic loss and something I cannot find the right words for. The tight rawness of the situation has hit us all hard. He remains strong in our hearts.

January Gratitude List

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Inspired by listening to Inua Ellams, I focused on ‘we are lucky’ and we are and I have been, so I wanted to post some thanks for life so far this month. Lots has happened off screen that makes me appreciate this gift of a new year even more.

We haven’t reached the end of the month yet and there is already a long list of people and groups to thank. I am grateful that I finally have some work, even if a daily trip into the outside world scares me rigid. This was the first month since March 2020 that I haven’t had to worry about paying the bills. I am grateful that I do not live in an area of the county currently flooded. I have in the past lived by a river and canal that burst, back in the floods of 2007. My heart goes out to all the people having to deal with this right now. I am grateful that after 10 days of self isolation my partner shows no signs of Covid.

Thank you to all poets for generosity and spirit, for providing such top quality events during this time. For weekly workshops and poetry meets I thank: Rakaya Fetuga & the CARAF Centre, Redwing Judith Keyssar & the Meri Center UCSF and the wonderful people who make these groups the comfortable, expressive places they are. LA Marks for her fabulously fun thirty minute writing workshops/ Therapeutic Poetry & Society X. Celena Diane for her weekly classes and for creating a relaxed and caring Poets in Motion group. As well as keeping my mind and heart balanced, these groups welcome new and non-writers, many people have discovered the power of the pen during this pandemic.

I am grateful to all the organisations and individuals who take their time to provide events, readings, interviews and entertainment for us. I am grateful poets have engaged with online platforms and this has bought global mics to the forefront of weekly schedules.

To Helen Ivory & Martin Figura for opening up The Butchery and bringing spectacular poets to us every month, to the Lexicon for showcasing some incredible talent from Northern Ireland. To Trafford Libraries for the event with Rosie Garland and another chance to hear her read her new collection What Girls Do in the Dark. To New Writing North for hosting the Northern Writers’ Awards: Poetry Roadshow, to the speakers: poet Rommi Smith; poet and editor Jo Clement; poet and editor JT Welsch; and Hannah Bannister, Operations Manager of Peepal Tree Press. To Anna Saunders, the powerhouse behind Cheltenham Poetry Festival for launching Feverfew and giving generous time to Bernard O’Donoghue and Richard Skinner. This book launch buoyed my heart! To the National Centre for Writing for having a Lit Up scheme for Young People and for those enthusiastic members who created Chrysalis, for commissioning Inua Ellams to provide the 2020 Vision poem. To Writers & Books for bringing us Dante Micheaux to read from Circus (2018) and answer questions about his work.

To all those hosts and organisations who moved monthly open mic events online and provided awesome features. This month I particularly enjoyed returning to Fire & Dust and Run Your Tongue. Gratitude to the Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists for Yes We Cant and bringing us Luke Wright to kickstart January, to the Gloucestershire Poetry Society for Crafty Crows with David Clarke and Catherine Baker, for Fire & Dust and Clive Oseman for entertaining us, for Poets’ Cafe for giving Helen Ivory and Martin Figura the spotlight, for Cafe Writers featuring Sarah L. Dixon and Tom Sastry, to Oooh Beehive for bagging Elvis McGonagall and bringing him LIVE into our lounges, for Cheltenham Poetry Festival for Marvin Thompson and Simon Alderwick, for Run Your Tongue and Dominic Berry, for Dear Listener, bravely changing event formats monthly, this time featuring Rob Francis with a reading and Q&A.

To the library services around the UK who continue to provide support and opportunities for readers in the locale and beyond. Worcestershire Libraries and in particular The Hive have provided local poets many opportunities through the lockdown, but I am greedy and a lover of libraries, so the library I would love honorary membership to is Sheffield. Sheffield Libraries really rolled our the red literary carpet over the past 10 months providing so many groups and events that it would take a website to almanac them… of course they have a website! Go and check it out.

April 2020 –

Creativity during Corona

Sheffield Central Library hosts a wide range of regular groups, talks and workshops to spark creativity and connect people with culture and their community.  During these strange times we’ve temporarily closed the library and had to pause all of our face to face meetings.  However, there’s no reason for the creative process to falter, or for people to stop sharing their thoughts and enthusiasm for poetry and prose. In fact, perhaps more than ever, we all need to keep the creativity flowing.

Claire Walker is the creative dynamo behind the Central Library poetry and writing groups.

Ⓒ Sheffield Libraries

I am grateful for all the workshops Nik Perring did last year and for the outcome of the projects this month. I look forward to receiving my copy of the anthology produced, I had a sneaky on screen peek of it yesterday. And to Claire Walker at Central Library for providing inspiration and virtual spaces for sharing poetry and writing. During normal times Claire ran these groups at Central library and I have been delighted to join her Sheffield crew as they expanded across the globe. I look forward to these workshops and poetry gatherings. The hope season has been wonderfully positive.

I am grateful for workshops with these wonderful women: Zelda Chappel, Sarah L. Dixon, Cath Drake and Diane Kendig. Zelda ran a series last year which I thoroughly enjoyed, it made me feel like I did when I was first writing, the magic of writing. For 2021 she has developed a series of 4 classes, ‘Beginnings’, which can be taken as a block or individually. They are intense (in a good way). Sarah’s workshops run on a combination of Zoom and Facebook, there are always several interesting prompts and I always end up with a decent workshop poem to go away and bake and batter some more. Cath Drake produced wonderful opportunities last year to deal with Lockdown. As well as being a talented poet, she is trained in Mindfulness coaching, the session she delivered this month was powerful and necessary. I went to Refresh 2021 and we enjoyed several hours of meditation, deep thought and writing. My experience with Diane Kendig at the OPA workshop was great. It was a concentrated session and I learnt a lot about poetry from Ohio, we explored lots of form and came away with poetry written and a library of resources. I have pages of notes to go back and munch my way through.

I am grateful for a life filled with poetry!

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Chrysalis: Transforming. Thinking. Writing.

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Chrysalis: Transforming. Thinking. Writing

Chrysalis – Sat. 23rd January

A day of events programmed by young people*, reflecting on 2020 and a year spent apart. Tickets are available from the National Centre for Writing.

All events and workshops are free to enjoy online from home.

Reading Diversely

With Holly Ainley, Hannah Chukwu, So Mayer and Amelia Platt

10.30 – 11.30am GMT

When you look at your bookshelves, do you see diversity? Whose stories are being told? How are you reading them? Tune in for our panel discussion on reading and writing habits, and how the world can benefit when we broaden our reading horizons.

Featuring Holly Ainley, book buyer for Jarrold; Hannah Chukwu, assistant editor at Hamish Hamilton (Penguin); writer and activist So Mayer; and young reader and Lit Insider, Amelia Platt.

© Henry-Nicholls

2020 Vision: A Reflection on the Year

With Inua Ellams

12.30 – 1.30pm GMT

2020 was a year like no other. Tune in live for the launch of a specially commissioned poem by internationally touring poet, playwright and performer Inua Ellams. A unique chance to not only take stock of last year but also to look forward to the future.

This event will also include a live Q&A, giving you the chance to ask Inua about his writing, his experience of 2020, and his process for creating this poem.

Alex Holmes

Workshop: Writing the Present

With Alex Holmes

2.15 – 3.45pm GMT

How can writing help you make sense of your feelings and the world around you right now? Join Alex Holmes, mental health and wellness advocate, writer and podcaster, for a friendly and informal online workshop which will give you the tools to write about the issues that matter to you most in an open and honest way.

This workshop will take place online and is open to everyone. Registration is free but places are limited to 15.

PLEASE NOTE the workshop is FULLY BOOKED but there is a wait list option.

Lit From the Inside

Our Lit From the Inside programme enables 14 – 17-year-olds to get a behind-the-scenes look at the literary arts scene in Norwich.

© National Centre for Writing

*The young people who programmed this event are from Lit from the Inside, a scheme open to those who live or go to school in Norfolk.

Bookings and information https://nationalcentreforwriting.org.uk/chrysalis/

I am excited to hear Inua Ellam’s commission, I’m blessed to have seen him perform live several times, always a magical experience. 2020 saw him launch new work, win awards and present at several Literary Festivals including Hay.

Dear 2021, The Start Of It

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I’m busy preparing for the 2nd part of January and I want to share some of the happiness so far. We all need these silver linings at the moment.

Last year Nik Perring was the Writer in Residence for Sheffield’s Year of Reading. You can find out about the multitude of exciting projects he was involved in by clicking the link. Sheffield Libraries have been incredibly proactive throughout all 3 Lockdowns offering a wide range of workshops, interviews and groups.

I was fortunate enough to participate in several of Nik’s Autumn workshops and then two larger projects at the end of the year. On the 7th January one of the outcomes was released on the web for you all to enjoy and this is the first chance I’ve had to share it!

Here’s Nik with the backstory:

© Nik Perring 2020

Many of us will be haunted by the ghosts of 2020 – the strangest of years. We’re giving you the opportunity, the voice, and the audience to put them to bed.

Working with the BBC (The Novels That Shaped Our World) Dear 2021, The Start of It takes the spirit of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and challenges you to exorcise the ghosts of 2020 by writing a letter to Donald Trump, the universe, Santa, the future – to someone or everyone, telling us what you want to change and the whys and hows.

During this two-part workshop, Sheffield Year of Reading Writer in Residence Nik Perring, will show you the best ways of making your ideas, and desires, into brilliant poems, letters, or stories – and then he’ll show you how to shape them into pieces good enough to send up the chimney/out to the world.

The workshops were in November, many of our finished pieces were collated into a special book which came out in December and lots of people who took part in the workshops recorded their work which was broadcast via Sheffield Library Service’s Digital platform 10 days ago!

You can read more about the Video Poems here.

Enjoy!
With gratitude to Nik Perring, Alexis and the Sheffield Libraries Team
and Charles Dickens for inspiring it all in the first place!

Mab Jones – Lockdown Writers’ Club 2021

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© 2021 BBC

As you were reminded yesterday, Lockdown 2020 saw many notebooks being filled. By Lockdown 2, I was back in the scary world of work and Lockdown 3 is a mixture of both (after 3 hours on phone calls yesterday afternoon)!

Some of my notebooks were filled with words from the Lockdown Writers’ Club, organised and facilitated by Mab Jones, a poet I have had the pleasure of knowing for quite some years. The daily prompts offered a lot of material across a range of genres and (like all good starting points), were springboards which encouraged the sparks of ideas to fly. Both Mab’s course and Cath Drake’s workshops, inspired me for sometime after they finished.

2021 has not started the way, in the depth of the summer, we hoped it would. Lockdown offers new and established writers time to write. We all want/need more than the 4 walls of our room and CO19 in our brains.

This rerun is an email only course, so is perfect for people who have restricted access to other platforms.

Lockdown Writers’ Club is an online / email course for writers of any experience.
✅Receive 30 prompts in 30 days. ✅Respond in poetry or prose. ✅Learn, be inspired, have fun!
Just £25✨

Contact @mabjones for details: mabjonescreativeATgmailDOTcom

Mab JonesCardiff Wetlands Writer in Residence
Biography

Mab Jones is a “unique talent” (The Times) who has read her work all over the UK, in the US, France, Ireland and Japan. She is winner of the John Tripp Spoken Poetry Audience Award, the Word Factory Neil Gaiman Short Story competition, a Royal Society of Literature ‘Literature Matters’ award, the Aurora Poetry competition, the Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival Grand Jury Prize, and the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize, amongst others.

Her most recent pamphlet is ‘111 Haiku for Lockdown’ (Infinity Books UK). She is the author of two other pamphlets, and two collections: ‘take your experience and peel it‘ (Indigo Dreams) and ‘Poor Queen’ (Burning Eye Books). Her work has been read or shown (as poetry film) at many festivals, at the Southbank Centre, and at various venues and a variety of platforms.

Mab teaches creative writing at Cardiff University, has written for the New York Times, and has presented three recent poetry programmes on BBC Radio 4. She previously coordinated International Dylan Thomas Day, and now runs the social media for world famous writer Wilbur Smith. She promotes adventure writing through his Foundation, in addition, and offers mentoring, critique and feedback for writers, most notably through the Poetry Society.

PROMO Cath Drake 2021 Courses

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My 2020 Lockdown involved writing. I scribbled my way through 14 notebooks (some of them were tiny). After a few weeks I designated it my year for learning. We are always learning.

One of the first highlights was Carolyn Jess-Cooke‘s incredible Stay At Home Festival, back in the days before Zoom security is what it is now. It was here that I came across Cath Drake and her inspiring debut collection ‘The Shaking City’ (Seren, 2020). I love discovering new (to me) poets, especially ones whose work I admire. By the end of 2020 I had a long list! I have never had such time to indulge in poetry and read, other than my isolated 2019 but I was not well enough to ‘use’ my time.

Cath launched her Writing to Buoy Us workshops, 6 weeks of reading, investigating/critiquing and writing poetry. Online workshops in small groups of writers from UK/Europe and Australia. Cath is Australian and has lived in the UK/London for many years now. It was the USP which attracted me, that and her mindfulness coaching. I knew this experience would be a positive (beyond writing) one and I was not wrong.

Shortly after Cath offered a Re-invent the Future course, along the same lines of Buoy Us but covering different content/ outcomes.

Now we are in 2021 and back in Lockdown 3 here in the UK and across the world, the internet is still packed with online courses. Cath Drake has more magic in store, I seriously recommend you go and check out her website. Treat yourself, book a course.

The first course kicks off Sunday 10th

Refresh 2021

– A journaling & mindfulness workshop to press refresh for 2021!

With guided journaling and a sprinkling of mindful meditation we’ll reflect on what we’ve learnt from 2020 and what we want for ourselves, our community and the planet in 2021 and beyond.

Find some inner stillness and connect with what really matters and what the heart desires. © Cath Drake, 2021

Find out more here https://cathdrake.com/refresh-2021/

Photo by Dan Gold on Pexels.com


2021 New Year Writing Shake-up

Start your writing year with a fizz of creativity. In this new year writing ‘marathon’, you’ll be guided through quickfire poetry, visual prompts and wordy challenges to keep your pen moving, outpace your internal critic, and find fresh perspectives & surprising ideas for new poems and stories. It really works for me and it’s loads of fun!

This workshop style is based on what has sparked my best poems last year,  plus prize-winning poems from others and even the beginning of a novel! Give your 2021 creative force! © Cath Drake

Find out more here https://cathdrake.com/new-year-new-writing/

Cath Drake is also offering Masterclasses with Glyn Maxwell, Malika Booker, Mona Arshi, Mimi Khalvati, Dai George, Cath Drake and many more! Find out more information here. https://cathdrake.com/poetry-masterclasses/

About Cath Drake: Cath is an Australian who lives in London. She has been published in anthologies and literary magazines in UK, Australia and US, and performed widely. Sleeping with Rivers won the Mslexia/Seren poetry pamphlet prize and was a Poetry Book Society choice. The Shaking City (Seren Books) was commended by the Forward Prizes for Poetry in 2020. Cath has been short-listed for the Venture Poetry Prize and the Manchester Poetry Prize, and was second in the 2017 Resurgence Poetry School eco-poetry prize.  Her work has included environmental writing, award-winning journalism and teaching mindfulness. Cath was writer in residence at the Albany Arts Centre café in 2012 and The Katharine Susannah Prichard (KSP) Writer’s Centre in Australia in 2018.

An innovative workshop leader and experienced facilitator, Cath has run workshops on creative writing and poetry as well as copywriting, life story, oral history, interviewing, radio and media, delivering workshops and programmes for a range of clients from senior professionals to vulnerable young people and adults; from small specialist or intimate groups to large groups in a festival tent of mixed ages.

Flashback Spring (May)

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If I thought April had been a whirlwind, I wasn’t quite buckled in for May!

I was enjoying off screen time in the garden, had already taken photos of the blossom and enjoyed the early Spring flowers.

You know it is easy to misremember how it was? I closed the last flashback with the realisation I had not travelled more than 1.5 miles from my home – actually my perimeter was a lot smaller in April. I hadn’t started walking outside of my home and the supermarket is not that far away so thinking back, the frame of my life was caught in a circle of 3 roads, just one small block of life!

This was the month it expanded to 1.5 miles.

I do remember I stayed in, if I wasn’t in the garden I was in the house. Most of the street were out in the back gardens, enjoying the sun, building new sheds, cabins, garden furniture, slides and swings whilst I was indoors fighting the good fight for Furlough or burying my head in the sand of a writing world that became my Narnia.

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May started with more festivals: Avon Book Festival, Stay at Home Fringe Festival (organised by the Students/graduates of Glasgow Uni), The Urban Tree Festival and of course HAY (which I managed to blog in a timely fashion). Huge gratitude to everyone who has worked so hard to give creatives access to platforms and festivals at this time.

Big gratitude to Julia Webb for the prompt/course she ran this month. To Kim Moore for braving the online world of workshops and furthering my year of learning. To Carys Hannah who started a Golden Girls Watch Party, which reminded us what laughter is and made us all hope we get to grow old.

To Anna Saunders and the team at Cheltenham Poetry Festival for delivering a feast of poetic pleasure with numerous events and a great line up of poets. To Seren for creating a series of reading events, AWP for giving us a night with Joy Harjo (Poet Laureate of USA). For the universe for keeping my neighbour safe the morning she climbed up on our conservatory roof to clean and I couldn’t stop her!

Thanks to Helen Ivory & Martin Figura for events at the Butchery and to Jinny Fisher for her Poetry Pram Party. Thanks to Jane Commane at Nine Arches Press for videos, live readings and Book Launches, to Emma Wright at the Emma Press for Book Launches and webinar readings/Q&A. To Phillipa Slinger and Chloe Garner who moved Ledbury Poetry Festival and the Salons online.

This month I also enjoyed the Saboteur Awards and Book Launches for The Unmapped Woman by Abegail Morley (Nine Arches Press), Dorothy by Briony Hughes (Broken Sleep Books), Apple Fallen by Olga Dermott-Bond (Against the Grain).

Photo by Jason Toevs on Pexels.com

And I finally realised online events meant we could travel after all… and travel I did, first stop back to Australia. I headed back to Perth and Freo. Thanks to all at VoiceBox. I reunited with some of the Perth crew at Zoomouth, which was brilliant!

I finished the 6 weeks Writing to Buoy Us course with Cath Drake and writers from Europe and Australia. I started a Hybrid Experimental course with Tawnya Renelle https://tawnyaselenerenelle.com/ , who I also met through the Stay at Home Fringe Festival. And who also needs a huge shout out of gratitude. I was glad to help where I could at the beginning and have loved watching the take-off!

I completed work on the animations for Poetry Renewed with Elephant’s Footprint and wrote lots in journal form and a few poems. Covid had crept into the writing and I was attempting to not write about it in the beginning. And the BIG conservation started about the artists place in all this, whether it is our job or not to almanac the times (which is what a lot of writers/artists do). I believe most of us do, but also agreed that writing books about it probably wouldn’t even make it to the slush pile, of course I am sure there will be some, there already are. But I’m still processing last year and things which happened at the beginning of this one (pre-Covid).

May was the month: I realised my back can’t manage Yoga and gracefully I saluted the sun for one last time, started to walk in nature, used my walking stick for the last time (hadn’t needed it for 3 months), I blamed the yoga but looking at this it was more likely all that sitting at the desk! It marked the milestone of my first submission in 5 months! I have been very slow to get back on that horse!

Flashback Spring (April)

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April was Napowrimo and those of you who follow this blog will know I have done it every year since I discovered it existed (2014), this year – for the first time ever – I was home every day of the prompts and managed it without falling behind. As is tradition, by the end I was left with about 5 decent poems and another 5 to work with. Lots of new notes and scribbles, I did write 32 poems over the month but some are no more than a warm up exercise, you can whittle on after April and collect yourself a good batch of 30 decent poems, but as with all workshops some prompts will speak louder than others. There were some areas I continued to research and develop and other scrap poems I abandoned. Nothing wasted though.

Napowrimo was also the last time I was properly active on the blog. The Stay at Home Lit Festival continued (it was a glorious 2 weeks). I continued to enjoy events which moved online more from the PPP (Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists) team, as another of their brilliant nights Yes We Cant happened online and PASTA (usually at the Wolverhampton Arena Theatre). 42, Worcester and Run My Tongue were other open mic events I joined.

I signed up to Caleb Parkin‘s Napo group and enjoyed weekly sessions with other poets (some of whom I knew) doing Napo. These groups were great fun. Huge gratitude to Caleb for creating such a pleasant space to create from.

Another huge gratitude bundle goes to Cath Drake, who I discovered at the S@HF. Her first collection The Shaking City (Seren) was launched in April. https://www.serenbooks.com/author/cath-drake.

Cath started a writing course for poets in Australia (her homeland) and UK (her home). It was incredible and again I will be posting separately on Writing to Buoy Us.

Discover more about Cath and her work here https://cathdrake.com/.

April was the start of crazy, for me it was a coping mechanism and also I was coming from that post-book release-writing-slump https://ninalewispoet.wordpress.com/books/, which followed on the back of the medicated break from writing, which I was convinced (at the time), had broken the camel’s back, so a certain amount of my packed scheduling was a liberation, a dance with words. It was also a sure fire way to bury my thoughts from what was really happening for a few hours most days. I was also trying to get over having to cancel all my real life bookings for a 2nd year running.

I read a lot, every writer should. But I have to say 2020 has opened me to more new writing and new to me poets than any year so far. So readily accessible at a touch of a button. The whole world at my writing desk.

Sarah L. Dixon needs another shout out of gratitude, she started to run workshops online, which were always fun and successful for me – as in I would always have a nearly completed poem by the end of it – I may have even submitted some of these out to the world and I have barely submitted anything anywhere since 2018.

A big shout out of gratitude to Zelda Chappel too – who it has been a pleasure to reconnect with. She offered a series of wonderful prompts which in the beginning refreshed my love for this gift of writing and over the weeks gave space for some different writing.

A big shout out to Mab Jones too who created Lockdown Writers’ Club and provided us all with in depth prompts and created a creative community.

I went to the book launch of Play – by C. S Barnes, The Shaking City by Cath Drake and Mutton Rolls by Arji Manuelpillai.

I started doing Yoga with Allison Maxwell who is another gratitude shout out, I helped people and artists learn how to use Zoom effectively, we celebrated the first birthdays online, never expecting we would still be doing the same by the end of the year! I started doing my pilates classes at home.

I finally joined INSTA as there were poets I admire doing things on this platform. My INSTA account is still nothing to shout about and I probably won’t be joining the INSTA Poetry movement anytime soon, but it is a great platform for short video/ workshops and has been fun exploring this year.

I took opportunities offered by Room 204 on developing characters, huge thanks to Stephanie Hatton for letting us be your guinea pigs, I hope the roll out went well. I enjoyed the National Ballet online, a workshop with The Poetry Business and started recording video performances for events. And I discovered the Cuirt Festival of Literature AND more importantly an Irish poet I had read in my teens, Michael Gorman – it was like being reunited with an old friend.

I also had the pleasure of watching Kei Miller and Carolyn Forché with Poets House and Roger Robinson with Writing East Midlands, all poets I have read and admire. I’m lucky enough to have seen Kei and Roger in action several times. These three poets started the pack of recurring poets who became a big part of my lockdown.

I was also working hard completing an animation commission from Elephant’s Footprint for the Arts Council funded ‘Poetry Renewed Project’. I wrote a poem for Rick Sanders PoARTry/ the digital version of his project. My ekphrastic poetry response was based on an artwork created by Alan Glover. I watched most deadlines zoom past and wrote covid and non-covid journals.

It was an action packed month which taught me: I was happy we’d had haircuts the week before the news of Lockdown, the forever-wanted GHDs probably weren’t going to be the most used Christmas present, that I was unlikely to run out of notebooks for a while, that the world is trying to hold itself together, that a smile goes a long way, that facetime and online platforms are a great way to stay connected, what it feels like to spend 5 weeks travelling no more than 1.5 miles from your home.

Flashback Spring (March)

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March Lockdown was only a week – but those 7 days felt like a lifetime!

I was one of the many people who actually found life online a blessing, it was a way of staying connected during Lockdown and after a week I realised the Writing Community had gone full throttle into Teams, Crowdcast, Webinar platforms, Zoom (of course) and suddenly INSTA and FB were brimming with events, workshops, performances and festivals. I was a little slower to fill my diary as I was adjusting and juggling concerns for family, finances, future etc. (as we all were).

I realised having suffered depression and my year of incapacity last year (where I couldn’t be online for 6 months due to not being able to concentrate/focus/work/ use a desk/chair and was off social media for a while longer as by the time I finally reached the desk the manuscript was 5 months overdue an edit)! That this online connection is essential for some of us.

It was also a blessing as my body had time to heal, I wasn’t running ragged or trying to push driving distances. I also hadn’t found a solid way back into the poetry community after a year away. This exodus online, bridged that gap and gave me the ability to travel again – although it was a while (months) before I realised international waters were open!

I didn’t leave my home territory for the first month of lockdown and after that was only brave enough for one nature walk a week (it was still restricted back then that you can’t drive to walk and we live in an urban area), there are trees lining the dual carriageway, but we have a garden so I sat with nature rather than walking.

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Looking back, I knew even then it was a gift that we had Lockdown in the Spring, for much of the world it wasn’t as warm or abundant with nature. A few months into lockdown I was one of two people wearing a mask to supermarket shop and only once or twice a month. Mr G. had to work throughout lockdown so there was always a possibility even when I was keeping myself from the world. So thank goodness for life online.

Of course there were strains and worries, fears and concerns, waking every day for months… well we all lived it right, it has been tough financially and I know people who were very ill with Coronavirus. I am choosing not to address it in these posts (other than excusing myself for not mentioning it in this first one).

At first my online meets were just for virtual coffees and a few regular events I attend which had moved online. I want to give a big shout out to Poets, Prattlers and Pandemonialists https://www.pandemonialists.co.uk a.k.a. Emma Purshouse, Steve Pottinger and Dave Pitt who have grown to adapt to many platforms this year but immediately moved events online and were making them fully accessible no matter what your situation, lots of hard work.

© 2018 Poets, Prattlers and Pandemonialists.

I am delighted that after putting the hours in and giving so generously they have maintained working status with lots of projects online. They always are busy people and it doesn’t look like they are about to let a pandemic stop that ethic!

Polly Stretton immediately moved 42 online, a regular event in Worcester that we have been enjoying on Zoom since March.

I was writing for a Worcester Cathedral Poetry Project, organised by their poet in residence, Amanda Bonnick.

And then Carolyn Jess-Cooke gave us the STAY AT HOME FESTIVAL – https://stayathomelitfest.co.uk/about/ the first in a long line of festivals online – it was brilliant and on a massive scale and conceived (as many things are) on Twitter.

I unfortunately missed the call (as I was working F/T until lockdown) but I attended most of the festival weekend and was lucky enough to be one of the showcase poets.

I will write an entire post about the festival, I was hugely grateful and it was also the beginning of filling my notebooks – (2 over this weekend), avoiding household chores and unpacking boxes!

National Poetry Day 2020

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Happy National Poetry Day! I hope you find some good words to dive into today.

Here’s a small guide to places you can spend some time in. Enjoy!

The main website for National Poetry Day is worth a good look around, but in case you are snatching a poem on your lunch break or pressed for time, I have selected some options.

36 Poems to read

Articles National Poetry Day

Poetry Recommendations

Poetry Archive

7 poems to listen to.

There are plenty of events happening online, nearly all are ticketed, some are free and there are lots of poetry take overs across social media platforms.

An exciting aspect of this year’s NPD is we are no longer bound by Geography – look beyond your region, spread the poetry love!

© Hay Festival 2020

You could treat yourself and listen to Poet Laureate Simon Armitage reading in Dove Cottage (Wordsworth). This is a ticketed event.

https://wordsworth.org.uk/blog/events/simon-armitage-in-dove-cottage/

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm BST

Tickets £7; £5 to current supporters of the Wordsworth Trust.

Simon Armitage was born in West Yorkshire and is an award-winning poet, playwright and novelist. In 2010 he was awarded the CBE for services to poetry and in 2019 he was appointed Poet Laureate. This year we have invited him to take over Dove Cottage for an exclusive performance of his own poetry, bringing to life the house that Wordsworth lived in 200 years ago.

Simon Armitage Trailer

Or you could just find a quiet spot, take a book off the shelf and indulge in a read, or grab a notebook and pen and have a write.

Between 2013-2018 I offered an annual writing retreat here on AWF. Over the 6 years of INKSPILL we had various guest poets gift us writing prompts, I have included a couple in this selection.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/10/28/inkspill-2018-picture-prompts/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/10/27/inkspill-2018-writing-activity/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/10/29/inkspill-guest-poet-stephen-daniels-workshop-exercise/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2016/10/22/inkspill-workshop-with-roy-mcfarlane-objects-to-hang-our-words-

on/https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2015/10/25/inkspill-beautiful-ugly-part-1/