Last Wednesday we held a Reading to mark the Launch of the Connect Dudley Exhibition. It was a pleasure to have some workshop participants with us in the audience and to hear their reactions to the poems. Before the exhibition all the participants received copies of their own poems but hadn’t heard the others. Our source material was deeply personal and it was a true honour to work with the letters produced over 8 weeks of workshops during Lockdown 1.
It also served as a reminder to all about how challenging that time was. Such restriction imposed on our lives (and with good reason), a global narrative, the ins and outs of everyone as they experienced living diminished lives and loss and all the time an undercurrent of gratitude for still being here. For community. For the rallying of strangers.
The UK is currently in the 3rd Lockdown with the hope of gradual reopening over the next few months.
This project began in 2020 with Rick Sanders, it was his idea to bring the community together through writing. The bid was successful and Creative Black Country commissioned the work. A series of online workshops with a Lockdown related prompt were facilitated by Rick. The participants wrote letters to their future selves. The idea was to keep them and open them a year later. In the light of the fact we are still in Lockdown, those envelopes may remain sealed for a little longer! The letters created during this project also work as a social record of that time.
Rick wanted to connect people with an Artform too, so the 8 letters were used to compose bespoke poems as a gift for each participant. The original exhibition idea was to be held in real life. The project has been cleverly adapted to make it feasible during this 3rd lockdown. And as a result has reached over 300 people!
Rick and I were interviewed by CoLab last summer about the process and the outcomes. CoLab also interviewed the participants and lots of their feedback appears in the reported evaluation of the project and on the Launch video and exhibition posters. I was so glad to have this opportunity to work within such a rich community project. It has been a pleasure from start to finish.
I enjoyed the Q&A last Wednesday night, it was great to hear Rick Sanders talk about the other elements of the project. A video is available from Creative Black Country channel where you can find out more about the fantastic work they do.
If you are local to Dudley there is more to come so keep your eyes peeled and in the meantime, take a socially distanced /correctly protected walk to the High Street and have a read or a listen (QR codes – thanks to Overhear) for yourselves. There are 10 poems, so this display will change at some point over the next month or so.
February arrived and I could barely believe January was over! Another month fully booked and brimming with adventure… and more snow! After suffering several lack work years, work came like buses and I said YES to it all. So right from the get go I was aware of pacing myself. I worked full time for a couple of weeks, balanced deadlines with new ventures, took on a new role and celebrated Mr G’s birthday, Valentine’s and other family celebrations and finished the month off with a Poetry Festival! Perfect! This is certainly one of the longest review posts for a while, you may want to munch through it in several sittings!
The first day of the month threw treasure at me, I started a new course with Tawnya Renelle – Experimenting with… it was inspiring as ever and started me in a new direction with some material I have been chewing over for a while. I even created a sketch! There is a shiny new website/platform and lots of resources to get my teeth into (especially now I have finished chewing)!
I also had some happy news hit the inbox, after a two year hiatus (health + pandemic) I am back with the DAN team supporting them with an online Poetry Extravaganza again. AND…. last year I completed the Poetry Renewed Project and my commission with Elephant’s Footprint to produce 10 animated Poetry Films. One of these, ‘Territory’ has been shown at the ReelpoetryFestival in Houstonthis month (24th Feb.) – the joy is abundant! https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2021/02/27/reelpoetry-festival-houston-tx/
I made some submissions with close deadlines and applied for more work. Which was time consuming and exciting. I had proof copies of Recoil 12 back from MullaMulla Press, I had a poem accepted by Literary AlchemyPress, an online magazine I discovered last year. They have taken a poem I wrote in an Angela France workshop and one I am particularly fond of. In addition to that, by publishing it they have become an International Press, which is brilliant for them!
Connect Dudley, (a project I was commissioned for back in May 2020 during the 1st Lockdown) is coming to the third leg. Rick Sanders facilitated community workshops where participants wrote letters over several weeks, in the 2nd leg Rick and I turned these letters into poems and shared them with the participants. We also completed an interview with the funders, CoLab and recorded audio of our work (which is connected to the High Street poems via QR codes).
Rick is now in possession of some very shiny and graphically exciting posters of the poems which will go up in empty shops in Dudley’s High Street over the next 5-10 weeks and I am booked for a reading later this month which will be a webinar and Q&A. It was a wonderful project that has helped many people and I am honoured to have been a part of it.
I caught an interview withCasey Bailey – Birmingham Poet Laureate, on Midlands News, which made me happy and I had my final workshop class with Zelda Chappel. It was on Life and Death – so not a light subject but it was a wonderful few hours, I have loved being part of this group and the work we have covered has uncovered some of those poems that have been living inside me. Now the hard work begins to get them fully formed.
I would recommend Zelda’s classes they are great fun and she has a wonderful way of facilitating 2 hours of intense writing and reading in such a relaxed and caring way you leave in a state of cleansed tiredness, definitely lighter and happier and with ink that is worth page space. It has been a January/February highlight. You can book the full course of just choose a week that you feel pulls you in. Most of our group did all 4 sessions. I first met Zelda through Jo Bell’s 52 project back in 2014, we read at the same event in London and have been following each other ever since. Do check out her poetry.The Girl in the Dog tooth Coat by Zelda Chappel.
I had the pleasure of attending a Book Launch, Nature at a Cost a first collection for Annie Ellis. I was tired but I wouldn’t have missed this Launch for the world. I am delighted for Annie. It was a lovely to watch her excitement as Guest Readers shared some of their own poetry and read poems picked from new collection. Annie’s Special Guests were Ben Ray, Anna Saunders, Zoe Brooks and Ankh Spice.
I recently discovered we landed in poetry around the same time, when I first met Annie (back in 2015), I thought she was an established writer. Annie’s collection has been described by Ankh Spice as ‘a clarion call to find the edges we have forgotten’, and by Ben Ray as ‘a haunting love letter to the natural world’.
The weekend saw more events and workshops withRedwing, Rakaya Fetuga & Sarah L. Dixon. Nine Arches Press celebrated the launch of Jacqueline Saphra‘s One Hundred Lockdown Sonnets. I watched the conception of this back in 2020 and have read a good number of Jacqueline’s sonnets, several poets joined her but most managed 80 something sonnets. This is not just another collection of Lockdown thoughts and poems, these are sonnets that in years to come will form a historical record and someone suggested may linger in our heads like lines of Shakespeare’s sonnets. It was also a treat to hear her Guest Poets: Anja Konig, Miriam Nash, Jacob Sam-La Rose and video readings from Ian McMillan & Naomi Shihab Nye.
If you missed it you can treat yourself now.
Sunday saw a warm gathering for Live from The Butchery and some stunning performances by: Annie Freud, Jane Burn & Anja Konig. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and it felt like the perfect end to the weekend, except there was more!
I have a few favourite landing places in America that I’ve discovered throughout the lockdowns and many offer free events. I am lucky enough to be working again but after the past 2 years the surplus spends are absorbed by previous bills so I am still not in a position to pay booking fees let alone ticket costs. Which is a great shame as there are lots of opportunities around at the moment – including a workshop with Carolyn Forché at the Kendal Poetry Festival. A festival I will get time to write about soon as I’ve spent an amazing 9 days with Clare Shaw and Kim Moore to complete the month!
I spent an inspiring night with Carolyn Forché & Lori Soderlind, thanks to Hudson Valley Writers Center. It was a deeply moving and inspiring event and I loved both readings. I have become a big fan of Carolyn’s work over this pandemic year. I received an order for In the Lateness of the World (Penguin Press, 2020) for Christmas and it should be arriving next week!
Carolyn Forché is an award winning author of poetry and prose. Renowned as a “poet of witness,” Carolyn Forché is the author of five books of poetry. Her most recent collection, In the Lateness of the World (Penguin Press, 2020), is a tenebrous book of crossings, of migrations across oceans and borders but also between the present and the past, life and death.
I loved discovering Lori and the story behind her work.
I wrote a proposal which took a lot longer than I expected. I’ve written a few applications this year and one of these was for Mass Poetry Festival in May. I was keeping my fingers crossed for a positive outcome on this and gathering some of the poets together again. Unfortunately it was rejected via a very kind email. Four years ago I started my Laureate Legacy Project (2017), a Transatlantic poetry exchange with Worcester, UK and Worcester MA, A Tale of Two Cities. You can read all about it here. And read the publication, Special Issue of Contour here. Many of the poets have gone on to republish their poems in other anthologies and collections.
In the UK we launched the project at Droitwich Arts Festival 2018 as part of the Poetry Extravaganza event, USA had an event at The Sprinkler Factory in September and then in 2019 it was part of the Evesham Festival of Words. I had hoped to role out a lot more with this massive project, there were plans but due to health issues and then COVID nothing has happened since. Evesham was booked in the summer of 2018 when I was 100% fit and not expecting an operation, it was only through the support of friends that I managed to get to the Festival and undertake the organisation of the event. So when I saw the call for MASS Poetry Festival I thought it was destiny! The application took some time, I was delighted to obtain a reference and all was well. I have been checking the inbox for a while. Maybe more opportunities will present themselves. Due to the pandemic I am back in touch with the WCPA who provided the rich American pool of poets for this project. So maybe when I am less busy I can organise something myself.
I missed the Cafe Writers Competition Winner Readings with Helen Ivory (Judge), I thought I had booked a ticket, I had registered interest in the event but not got a ticket. I was a actually double booked so would have missed the start of it, but kicked myself for not keeping tabs. This is overwork tiredness. It continued the next day. I had booked for a presentation (one which was recorded) and decided by the time I made it home I was too tired for any screen time. I forgot I have a Tuesday night class at 9PM (in USA) and was asleep before 7:30 pm. This week I have been putting the finishing touches together for Mr. G’s Lockdown birthday and Valentine’s Day as well as working on projects, writing applications and advertising copy.
Midweek I managed to attend Sheffield Libraries workshop, it was a writing week filled with food. Tawnya’s Experimenting with… class on Monday was Food and this Recipes and Memories workshop, facilitated by the wonderful Central Librarian, Claire Walker, links to a project later in the month. I spent a couple of hours in good company recollecting all sorts of stories that were decades thick in dust. It was inspiring and I hope to write up a couple of poems. It was also nice to see some of my 52 Poetry friends at the workshop and everyone shared such inspiring memories that many of us left with pages and pages of notes after the 2 hour workshop finished. At Midnight there was a USA reading, but I was asleep long before then.
On Thursday it was Worcester SpeakEasy, it was a wonderfully tender and entertaining evening, which included an impromptu ‘hat off’, bountiful love, valentine and non-valentine poems and we had a band too! I finished working full time and celebrated with Wolverhampton Literature Festival, Food for Thought poetry cafe, Poet’s Cafe featuring Corrupted Poetry a collective of writers, Nic Stringer, Michelle Penn & Fiona Larkin.
My 2nd proposal written and sent a week ago was acknowledged with an incredibly kind rejection email. They have kept my contact details and had over 3000 applications, they said my detailed pitch was well written, so some upskill desk time & pitching if nothing else. It’s a shame as it sounded like an exciting project to be involved in. Hopefully it has future-paved something!
This weekend was Mr G’s birthday and Valentine’s so I originally avoided booking anything in, until a conversation made me realise that 48 hours with me was not the way he planned to mark the weekend (harsh), so I booked a few bits into the last days of the week. On Saturday I went to Rakaya Fetuga‘s workshop and then the Annual Lucille Clifton Celebration: Today We Are Possible. It was a moving event full of tenderness and power – the best combination, stories and poems and memories of Lucille.
I was glad not to miss Charley Barnes‘ Book Launch for her Poet Laureate Collection, Lore. A collection which feeds more than her obsession with flowers and footnotes. I will be adding a post about this soon.
The Worcestershire LitFest competitions opened and I spent several hours web-building. This week was marked to work on one main project. I managed a few last minute submissions and was looking forward to Cheltenham Poetry Festival who had Kim Addonizio & Christina Thatcher booked. It was an incredible event. Epic in the truest sense of the word. I will be writing February blogposts long into March!
I had a project (which has been postponed) booked in for this week so hadn’t filled the diary. I am spending most of the week working on a manuscript which is due to be submitted. Looming deadlines are always a good reason to set to work. I have been working on this since last year, but decided not to sub it out in the end in the Autumn as I had originally planned. The poems involved have been written since 2019 and I am keeping my fingers crossed. It feels strange as in pre-pandemic times there would have been bountiful events to sell my previous book Patience and I am aware I have stock upstairs, I have sent any interest since March 2020 to the publisher website.
I recently discovered these lunch time readings, PM for UK. A lovely way to finish a day of one workshop, one class and one group.Jennica Harper tender poems touched us all deeply and listening to Frances Boyle force with nature, family, grief was fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to these two Canadian poets. The Q&A was interesting, I love listening to the poet’s process.
Frances Boyle’s first poetry collection, Light-carved Passages was published by Buschek Books in 2014, and her second, This White Nest, by Quattro Books in 2019. She also writes fiction and has published a collection of Short Stories and a Novella.
Jennica Harper is the author of three previous books of poetry: Wood (Anvil Press, 2013), which was shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay prize, What It Feels Like for a Girl (Anvil Press, 2008), and The Octopus and Other Poems (Signature Editions, 2006).
I often miss Cafe Muse nowadays due to work, Canadian events tend to be on in the early hours here in the UK. But I was still awake so I went to listen to the reading series Poets Vs the Pandemic. And I was glad I did, because I got to hear some great poetry from all three poets. Some of the poems were amazing.
Grace Cavalieri is Maryland’s Tenth Poet Laureate. She’s written 22 books and chapbooks of poetry; and 26 produced short-form and full-length plays. Her newest poetry publications are What The Psychic Said (2020;) Showboat,(2019;) and Other Voices, Other Lives (ASP Pub. 2018.) Her latest play was “Quilting The Sun,” Theatre for The New City, NYC, 2019. Grace founded and still produces “The Poet and the Poem” on public radio, celebrating 44 years on-air in 2021. The show’s recorded at the Library of Congress and transmitted via Pacifica Network.
Diane Wilbon Parks founded The Write Blend collective in 2018. She is a visual poet and artist who has published two collections of poetry, and has read widely as a featured poet, radio show guest poet and interviewee on The Poet and the Poem national broadcast from the Library of Congress. Her artwork has been displayed widely. She lives in Prince George’s County, MD.
ROSE SOLARI is the author of three collections of poetry, The Last Girl, Orpheus in the Park, and Difficult Weather, the one-act play, Looking for Guenevere, and the novel, A Secret Woman. She has lectured and taught writing workshops at many institutions, including the University of Maryland, College Park, MD; St. John’s College, Annapolis, MD; and the University of Oxford’s Centre for Creative Writing in Oxford, England. Her awards include the Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize, an EMMA award for excellence in journalism, and multiple grants. In 2010, she co-founded Alan Squire Publishing. Rose Solari lives in Bethesda, MD.
I booked tickets for Rita Dove and Terence Hayes and fell asleep before Jane Hirshfield‘s event Poetry and the Wild with the Natural History Institute. I caught up with a recording of it, another event which deserves an entire blogpost. It’s on the list!
I received some very sad news about our Poets In Motion teacher Celena Diana Bumpus, who passed away along with her mother, Shirley Bumpus. It has been an honour to have known Celena for almost a year, she was a creative person full of light and such a connector in these difficult times. Memorials have been organised. Words are the only fitting way for me to remember her and her generous spirit, spreading love and vision, globally. Her emails bore the signature ‘Be the inspiration the world needs‘. At the end of month I was reunited with classmates via email and we’ve decided to complete the collective unity poem Celena was working with us on.
I recently discovered Live Canon’s Lunchtime Reading Series, I went to the 4th one (I missed the 5th one, which had a great line up as I was at work). I am hoping there may be more in the future. They are just an hour and a perfect poetry lunch. I listened to with Adham Smart, Robin Houghton, Gillie Robic and Laura Theis
Friday night saw the Launch of Kendal Poetry Festival, a fabulous reading from Bernadette Mayer, followed by listening to the winning poems from the Pre-Ralphaelite Society.
The weekend saw the beginning of 9 days of early morning light workshops alternating between Clare Shaw and Kim Moore. These have been wonderful and productive. This weekend saw the first one with Clare followed by a morning with Kim on Sunday. I had a rehearsal for Connect Dudley. I went back to Kendal Poetry Festival for a Workshop and two readings: Hafsah Aneela Bashir, who I discovered last year through the Jerwood Arts events and Jackie Hagan who I have had the pleasure of watching LIVE several times before. Both were incredible events and will appear in my KPF post when I get around to working through the February list!
I finished my Saturday night with Rakaya’s weekly workshop and the Oystercatcher reading, which I was especially pleased to be available to attend as I was missing Vahni Capildeo at KPF. It was a powerful night of work with: Lee Duggan, Zoe Skoulding & Vahni Capildeo.
Sunday saw me back at Kendal Poetry Festival for the early morning writing session with Kim Moore and a reading from These Are the Hands the NHS anthology which came out last year. I will write more on this event. I spent the day building websites, workshops and going to Claire Dyer‘s Book Launch of Yield and trying to squeeze every last drop of freedom from the night. Then that was my week off work, gone.
I was back at work, missed deadlines, completed a week at Kendal Poetry Festival, made a performance/event video (not done one of those for a while), did some classes, had an emotional Worcester 42 in tribute to Kieran Davis, we all shared some of his poems and our memories of him, it was a moving experience. By Wednesday it was all I could do to stay awake after work, I had a fun reading event with Rick Sanders to launch the Connect Dudley Exhibition and had an animation shown in the REELpoetry Festival the same day.
On Thursday I managed to get to a Finding the Words, to hear readings from Gaia Holmes, Natalie Rees and Miles Salter.
It was a great reading and I listened to some inspiring, humour filled and new (to me) poetry which I loved. Kirsten Luckins also had her Book Launch with Guest Readers, it was a real treat to see her in a real book shop!
After work on Friday I managed to get to a panel discussion at Kendal Poetry Festival – Rising to the Challenge: Poetry in the Age of Covid, which was brilliant. I had a workshop and a reading cancelled and was relieved as I needed some time away from the desk. Saturday and I FINALLY made it back to Australia to the Perth Poetry Club – that had been a long time coming too. It will be no surprise that most weekends involve waking up later than 6 AM and so I often miss these by the time I surface after a late Friday night (or even an early one). Still just to wound off the month perfectly, I made it! After a great morning of poetry I joined Kim Moore for her final KPF early morning write. I spent most of the time offline and popped on for RakayaFetuga‘s workshop and to be WOWed by the UoB Slam Team! More to follow.
Sunday marks the last day of Kendal Poetry Festival and I got up to write (for the final festive writing) with Clare Shaw. I have a workshop this evening and plan to spend the rest of the day as Sunday’s should be! Feels like I need a big lie down in March! I am taking a more relaxed approach to filling the diary as it is already full with a desk schedule I need to keep and the last month of contracted work.
On This Day She… puts women back into history, one day at a time.
This book comprises short pieces about 365 women who have made history but are not necessarily in the history books. It is an inspiring collection that shines a light on incredible women who were never given the acknowledgement they deserved. Ailsa, Jo and Tania will read from the book and discuss how it came about and why it is needed.
I am fairly absent on Twitter (I originally got the account to communicate at an Eddie Izzard gig), and so I had missed the movement of this project completely, in fact the first I heard of the book was a couple of weeks ago when I dipped into Facebook and saw a link to extra tickets. It’s great that they needed extra places to be allocated. It shows the commitment and interest into women in history. Follow @onthisdayshe on Twitter.
I knew this hour would be a real treat and I was not disappointed. Each author chose a selection of women to read to us. Tania Hershman started the conversation, talked about positive priming and gave us an overview of the book layout. A woman a day (as suggested by the blurb citing 365 women), the entries are linked to a specific date/ or time that was important to the featured woman. There are short introductory articles at the beginning of each month and the hope that you will research further any woman you are particularly drawn to.
What surprised (and delighted me) was the serial killer and the conversation around including all sorts of women – not just the inspirational ones, ‘women not as muse. We are human, complete with flaws’. They believe it is important to represent women, including the bad ones (it isn’t just bad men in history). Being a Science Journalist (in a former life) Tania shared some of the Scientists.
Ailsa Holland talked about a Joanna Russ book ‘How to suppress Women’s Writing’, which she first read at University. This led to a whole chat conversation and one on screen between Holland, Hershman and Bell about the writing of History.
Women being left out of Literary History and history itself. History traditionally written by the victors, reflecting on people like themselves and was written by those with the time (and finances) to research and write it. Not those ‘too busy staying alive’. We often read history and take it as fact, but it is a story created and constructed like any other. ‘Defined as much by what is left out than what is put in’. History shapes our knowledge of the past and expectations of the future.
Jo Bell (an archaeologist in her former life,) went on to talk to us about more inspirational women from the book. Some of the women started their journeys to greatness when they were older (65) and I particularly enjoyed hearing about the first female cellist. And the first woman she picked, Poly Styrene (Marianne Joan Elliott-Said), celebrating the foul mouthed and unruly haired women!
Also the spy in the 1640s, her mission to save the King failed despite smuggling gold into Oxford in barrels of soap. The failing was due to His Majesty not measuring the window properly! It is important to celebrate the failures too, the unsuccessful activists of history. So much about life is down to luck, or measuring twice!
I also enjoyed hearing about Margaret Harrison and her act of anti-nuclear protest. Which led to a conversation about acts of protest, organising peaceful opposition. These are often movements led by women, the unsung heroes.
“It’s so important for busting the myth that women didn’t do anything for centuries – women have always been doing!” – Attendee.
The Q & A was great, a real insight to how the project became a book and how many astronomers they had to cut from the manuscript! It started as a Twitter account, as a social media project. They talked of how many extensions this project could offer, for them as well as the reader of their work. Aisla had received a calendar of people in history and there was a severe lack of women which was the impetus for the Twitter account.
They all appeared in their Venus of Willendorf t-shirts (RedBubble), shown off several times during the launch and Jo Bell declared people who bought this book (or perhaps more than one copy) were to be known as Willendorfs. And aware of tired zoomers they packed it all into and hour thus avoiding zoom fatigue. AND there was a quiz! I am rarely lucky with raffles and prizes and this evening proved no different but it was fun (made funnier by people offering male artist names as answers on a quiz about a book of women) and I was delighted I knew 2 of the 3 answers. The prize was a copy of this book – which you can get here:
On This Day She : Putting Women Back Into History, One Day At A Time
Publisher: John Blake Publishing Ltd
Published: February 18, 2021
Country of Publication: UK
The tried and tested ‘On This Day in History’ format has elevated the stories of many people and their impact on the wider world. However, of those considered noteworthy by the Establishment, just a fraction are women. But this is not the whole story – not by half. Our past is full of influential women, many of whom have been unfairly confined to the margins of history. Politicians, troublemakers, explorers, artists, writers, scientists and even the odd murderer; these women have shaped society around the globe. From Beyonce to Doria Shafik, Queen Elizabeth I to Lillian Bilocca, On This Day She sets out to redress this imbalance and give voice to both those already deemed female icons, alongside others whom the history books have failed to include: the good, the bad and everything in between – this is a record of human existence at its most authentic.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 MagazineLaunch, 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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
I feel so privileged that I caught the premier of this work and was there for the enlightening Q&A afterwards. What a brilliant end to a poetry filled morning. I started in Sheffield Library beforehand with Claire Walker’s Poetry group, this week looking at poems with plants/flowers/gardens. I woke to unrealised snow, childlike excitement hit my soul when I saw out the window!
It is always a pleasure to listen to Inua, he is incredibly insightful and generous in his tips and conversation around his work. It was great to hear his approach for this particular commission. I won’t paraphrase the entire hour, I am sure you will want to watch and enjoy.
But here is my positive take away: Be present. /Stay present. /Who I am? Why I am. /Stay weird/ Harness it – we are lucky.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Back in 2019 I had the pleasure of meeting Stewart Sanderson (Arts Development Officer/ Leisure and Cultural Services, Bromsgrove District & Redditch Borough Councils), he decided to unite the community in the Borough through poetry. He approached local poets to write a line or two about the town of Redditch.
By 2020 Covid kyboshed the original performance plans for this project and Stewart had to go back to the drawing board. But despite several Lockdowns he persevered and the results are now available to view.
It was a bit of a milestone for me, as filming happened in early Autumn. I had been self-isolating since March 22nd, my Furlough finished in August and I’d signed back with work, although there were no assignments. I had only been on local nature walks, to the Drs and to the supermarket, life contained in a 3 mile radius for more than half the year and I was terrified about the idea of going into the workplace. So I opted to film rather than shoot video from home. Maz did a spectacular job of stitching the films together.
The hope is this piece will help lift spirits at what is, for many of us, a challenging time... a real testament to the creative spirit and affection for Redditch locally. – Stewart Sanderson
This is just the teaser – I will share the video once it has been shared across the networks.
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:
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!