November – one step closer to the end month! Where did 2017 go? It is true, the older you get the more time flies. Most of this month’s review will read like a gig list.
I am delighted to have started creating again, writing beyond commissions. I have also submitted poetry for the first time since the Spring (although three poems made it out in September).
Exciting news landed in my inbox about awards & festivals, on the back of the Hanbury Hall Poetry Project (WPL) I have started collaborating with a local artist, Stephen Evans and after a fallow period of being very busy but feeling disconnected, I feel better. Gliding rather than flapping towards December.
Started at Bottles, Worcester for Uncorked without Holly Daffurn this month, but the reigns were taken by Joe. It was an enjoyable evening and I got to sit on a table with two journalists from the Local Paper – we had some great conversations about poetry.
I knew only half of the Headliners, I always enjoy it when I do not know the acts. I hadn’t seen Glyn Phillips a.k.a Armitage Spode for ages so it was good to catch up with him and I have never seen him perform with a Beatboxer, Fred Hanbury was AMAZING! As I left the gig I was about to tell him as much, but he disappeared swiftly on a skateboard (of course), I have never felt so old!
Melanie Branton was great, I loved her language play. Scott Cowley a.k.a Rusty the Goat Poet, I have had the pleasure of watching at Spoken Trend, great to hear a whole set from him and Raja Khan blew me away. I discovered later he is fairly new to performing his poetry publically – which is something I would not have guessed. The depth of his work was eye-opening to a world I do not know well.
Melanie Branton took up spoken word in 2014 at the age of 46. She won the 2015 Bristol regional final of the Hammer and Tongue slam and the 2017 Bristol regional final of Superheroes of Slam, has appeared at WOMAD, Bristol Harbour Festival and Cheltenham Poetry Festival and took a one-woman show about not having a boyfriend to the Edinburgh Fringe this year. Her debut collection, “My Cloth-Eared Heart”, is published by Oversteps Books and her mixture of comic verse and serious confessional poetry has made her a popular headliner in the South West. She still doesn’t have a boyfriend. “When I first saw Melanie perform a set in Bristol, I was laughing out loud and leaning in on the edge of my seat intently to hear more all in the space of 20 minutes. A fantastic poet with a great mix of dry humour and real-life heart and emotion.” – Harry Baker “Melanie Branton is an unexpected poetry slap. The kind that makes your face tingle and your eyebrows sky rocket. She is funny, clever, ironic, dry, gripping, needed and you won’t see her coming until she is standing in your face.” – Liv Torc
RUSTY THE GOAT POET
Scott Cowley (aka Rusty Goat the Poet) Born in 1972, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear. He began to meander south at an early age (hence the lack of northern twang) His poetry touches on subjects relating to Life, Crisis, Love and Discovery. He finds the whole experience of writing and performing his poetry very cathartic. Scott tries to scratch pen across pulp on a daily, if not weekly basis, and will continue to do so until the ink runs dry.
Raja Khan is a poet, philosopher and entrepreneur from Pakistan who came to the UK 4 years ago and has been writing poetry for the past 12 years, but only started performing 2 months ago. The melodic poetry that Raja performs is tightly composed and revolves around social, religious, cultural and political issues. Most of the inspiration for structure and rhythm is drawn from the classic poetry as that of Shakespeare, Blake, Wordsworth and Auden etc. Raja is direct in his admiration for the human spirit and progression, while highlighting his disdain for dogma and regressiveness through employing metaphores and a strong narrative style.
Armitage Spode describes himself as “part-time poet, half-time hedonist and full-time philanderer”. Mrs Spode describes him as “a very silly man who ought to get a proper job if he knows what’s good for him…”. With his ribald rhymes and saucy odes Armitage brings his old-fashioned Music Hall style of verbal entertainment to Worcester for one night only. Which is just as well – the good burghers probably won’t let him back through the city gates after this. With singalong choruses, a moustache large enough to make a grown woman weep and more innuendos than you can stuff inside a burlesque dancer’s corset, Armitage Spode will salaciously expound upon such subjects as Britain’s baked goods heritage, the British love of pets and why moustache wax is the new Viagra. Mary Berry and Barbara Woodhouse would most certainly not approve. Salvador Dali and Terry Thomas probably would. Armitage Spode: utter filth, served with finesse . . . Huzzah!!
© Deborah Alma
I spent an amount of time with event background work this week. I received running orders from Peter Sutton for the Elgar Poetry Event, worked with the Jinney Ring in attempting to secure a reading of Sculpture Workshop work and discussing the exhibition and working with Rosie Philpott organising the Art side of the Hanbury Hall Poetry reading. I also had two Talks to prepare.
On Monday I went to Worcester University to do a poetry talk to the Creative Writing Society. This was my second talk and I have to say they are an enjoyable experience. With a teaching background I am not phased by public speaking. As with all these bookings there is lots to do in preparation and of course I got lost on Campus. I had a good evening and it brought back memories of oh, too long ago! As WPL I was impressed to receive at least one student submission on the back of this meeting. I wish CW Societies had existed when I was at uni.
© Worcester University
Started with a treat, HOWL. It has been too long since I made it over for this event and Sophie Sparham (who has a book launch soon) had 2 nights of gigging in Birmingham. I missed Stirchley Speaks the night before and WAS NOT going to miss her again. I first met Sophie when we both Headlined Howl on the same night (still one of my favourite gigs), she is amazing, her work has more depth beyond the depth and she speaks honestly and openly about many topics that don’t get the word-time.
Joining her was Hannah Swings, a poet I have heard lots about who I had missed out on since my lost time in Birmingham, I used to be connected to the circuit more before they started digging up all the roads and building on my parking spaces. That and being a PL of an entire county which is some 35 miles away and not being able to afford petrol/train fare… the list goes on, but Birmingham, I miss you!
Ben Fagan was celebrating his birthday – so we all ended up wearing party hats. His work treads that fine thread balance beam from being so sad you almost cry and making you laugh and whoop loudly. It was a brilliant set.
I left this night feeling like I haven’t felt in a long time. I was electrified. The atmosphere of Howl is amazing. Roller coaster adrenaline all the way home and into the next day!
Ben Fagan is a spoken word poet and producer from Aotearoa New Zealand, currently based in London. He is a TEDx performer and organiser, and has shared his work across the UK, USA and NZ. Ben has taken two poetry shows to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and tweets for Apples and Snakes. Alongside UK Slam Champion Sara Hirsch, he won the Edinburgh Fringe Anti-Slam and came second in the national finals, making them the second-worst poets in the UK.
Hannah Swings is a noun, not a verb. She is a writer, teacher, artist and lover of anything vintage. Born and raised in Birmingham, she’s currently studying for a Masters in Creative Writing at UoB, but has a background in community theatre and likes to dabble across all artistic platforms. When performing, Hannah’s ‘haunting yet hopeful’ storytelling spans themes such as identity, relationships and mental health, exploring her inner narratives through ephemeral, witty and illustrative visions.
Hannah spends her days teaching secondary and sixth form students that it is okay to be messy. Her handmade poetry postcards have recently celebrated the power of the everyday; something she’s fascinated by, and she continues to facilitate workshops surrounding this. [She can also quote the whole of Mean Girls and finds it fundamentally strange if someone is not a dessert person.]
Hannah has performed with Tongue Fu, featured at Stirchley Speaks and Upstairs at The Western, and at BOM, the Old REP, REP Birmingham, Derby Theatre, Oxjam Fest and mac, amongst others. She featured on BBC Radio West Midlands discussing the power of community when creating art and is an alumnus of both the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain and Beatfreeks YSC cohort 2017.
She believes good things come to those who make.
Sophie Sparham is a performance poet and writer from Derby. Represented by Tom Ashton, she is currently editing her second young adult sci-fi and fantasy novel.
Her poetry mainly focuses on political and social subjects, such as depression, LGBT and women’s issues. She has performed all around the UK; including festivals such as Y Not and the Opera House Stage at Rebellion, the UK’s biggest punk festival.
Sophie’s work has appeared in the People’s History Museum in Manchester, as part of the exhibition ‘Loitering with Intent’. Last year she was featured as one of the UK Young Artists with her collection ‘Dead Air: If they won’t place us in the history books, we’ll write our own stories’. This allowed her to perform poetry in unusual places from market halls to libraries, educating people about forgotten revolutionary figures from history.
The following evening I went to SpeakEasy, Amy Rainbow and Jeff Cottrill were Headlining. It is unusual to have two headliners at SpeakEasy and it was fabulous.
I love watching Amy and it has been so long since I saw her in action. It was a pleasure. Heartfelt and humorous, another performer who balances well.
Jeff Cottrill is from Canada his set was lively fun to watch. I always enjoy the work of International poets and try to catch them when I can. It’s a big world out there!
Amy Rainbow and Jeff Cottrill are two celebrated poets and authors with distinctive styles and work that really packs a punch – and this month you have the chance to see both of them. Amy and Jeff will both be delivering a 20 minute performance each on the evening so for a chance to see two stellar poets in action, come on down to SpeakEasy and settle in for an evening of crackin’ entertainment.
It was certainly crackin’ and entertaining! Lots of great open mics too and I managed to bag a 6 minute slot, although I had to pretend to be Steve… this was okay, I had taken my moustache poem, it deserved an outing, last performed at Kieran’s Kings & Queens of Comedy night back in January.
Friday saw my 2nd talk of the week, this time for Worcester’s U3A group. It was an honour to be the first guest speaker and I felt relaxed talking about all things Laureate. The questions from the groups were focused and I hope my answers were too. I also did a quick write exercise using juxtaposition which produced some wondrous poems. I also heard some of their writing too. A valuable experience and as a bonus I walked away with a few new ideas of my own.
Saturday saw an Elgar Poetry Event at the Elgar School of Music. What I really loved about all this that despite all the shared emails, we did not see each other’s sets. It was joyous to listen to them and Peter Sutton deserves lots of credit for his skillful weaving of our work. The flow was there between Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Elgar, Alice, Youth, Old age, Death and interwoven insights from Peter and works of Elgar’s contemporaries. Michael’s reading of W.H Auden nearly sent me over the edge. Moving. Dramatic. Fun. Delightful. A true experience of an evening and as a fundraiser it was successful too.
Read more about it here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/12/elgar-poetry-event/
Peter Sutton, Lesley Ingram, Nina Lewis and Michael W. Thomas.
Sunday I spent time producing WPL Remembrance Anthology to mark Remembrance Sunday. This was my hardest editing challenge yet. Submissions reached over 3 figures, the maybe pile was towering and I only had a couple of days between the deadline and production of the work.
I am happy with the result and so are the poets who found their work had been placed. It was heartwarming and sad to read all the tributes to family members and unearth the war stories. I was delighted to have had such a response, this was truly an International collection. We have former soldiers, grandchildren/children of the Remembered, heartache, hope and truth blended here.
Here are just some of the things that have been said about it:
What a lovely and extremely moving Remembrance Anthology.
Such wonderful and meaningful poems.
Some lovely poems here. Beautifully put together with images.
It is a beautiful anthology.
Monday saw the biggest crowd ever at Licensed to Rhyme with Spoz & Maggie Doyle, standing room only, 17 open mics and Kathy Gee in the Guest Spot and headlined by Ash Dickinson. It was an incredible evening. It was a delight to see the new venue had indeed brought Birmingham people in. The previous venue was technically only 4 miles further out but not close to the stations. I also know how relieved I am when I make the journey the other way and the venue is in the outskirts rather than central city. I also believe we had audience from the village itself, I hope they come again too. I would if it was my village (not smarting at all that my closest venue has decamped)! It is a cracking evening wherever they host it and I do like the new venue.
Ash Dickinson is a performer I have followed for years and I am so delighted he is busy on the circuit, although how he manages it – I think he has wings! His set was a delight. Thoroughly enjoyed by everybody in the room! A blinding night!
© V. Press 2016
Tuesday saw amazing news in my inbox, my publishers are shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award. I shall be keeping my fingers crossed on the 12th December.
V. Press is very very delighted to have been shortlisted for the Michael Marks Publishers’ Award…
It’s been a delight to publish these pamphlets and V. Press is very very proud of all its authors – the press is its writers, readers and all those involved with it, including our fabulous poetry covers from V. Press designer Ruth Stacey.
The Awards will be announced at a dinner at the British Library on Tuesday, 12 December, where Sarah Leavesley will be giving a three minute presentation about the V. Press 2016/17 pamphlet list.
© V. Press
Do check out the V. Press website on the Awards link above, they are offering a generous discount on the pamphlets they had in for this year. Read more here
This wasn’t the only AMAZING news in my inbox. I was also invited to be an International Guest at a Poetry Festival next summer. Of course I started dancing around the room and looking into funding straight away. Then I received a follow up email with the application process. Fortunately most of the CV is up to date since applying for the Reader Residency in July.
The 5 day wait for the committee decision was agonising… my booking was confirmed.
All this good news hit my inbox on the same day as the Hanbury Hall Poetry/Art event.
I spent the whole day feeling like a child at Christmas counting down the minutes to my Hanbury Hall Poetry & Art event. Especially after the fortnight’s preparation. Another cracking night, another packed cafe!
This time for the 2nd part of the Hanbury Hall Poetry Project. Nine poets who took part writing ekphrastic poetry based on the DAN Art Exhibition at Hanbury Hall in October came to share their poems at a special reading where (thanks to Rosie Philpott) we were able to show images of the artwork alongside our poems.
It was a fantastic evening and was even better than I hoped. It was also my last planned event as WPL for 2017. Read more here.
The following night Kathy Gee, Maggie Doyle and I journeyed to Cheltenham to Smokey Joes for Poetry Cafe Refreshed. It was lovely to see Sharon Larkin again, it has been too long.
It was an enjoyable evening with a rich variety of poetry and even a few spoken word spots. Kate Noakes shared her incredible poetry and I wish I hadn’t spent my funds on milkshake and wine because I would have treated myself to her books.
It amazes me that I haven’t come across her before her biography and back catalogue both impressive. I will certainly have an eye out for her and her poetry in the future. I particularly admired the concept of her Tattoo collection.
Her first collection Ocean to Interior, was published by Mighty Erudite Press in December 2007, whilst I was still very much stuck in a full-time teaching career and poetry was way off my radar.
Here latest collection is published by Eyewear and is all about Paris, where she now lives most of the time.
The following evening I hit Birmingham – for Hit the Ode, which was celebrating 7 years of amazing Spoken Word and Poetry. This special anniversary addition included Birthday cakes, poetry open mic and Regional – Roger Robinson (Northampton), National – Shadè Joseph (London) and International – Penny Ashton (NZ) Headliners as well as an amazing raffle, no one envied Jack Crowe taking that huge heavy bag of books home, well – we all did a bit!
I was looking forward to seeing Roger Robinson again, my first time witnessing his magic was at Ledbury Poetry Festival. Shadè Joseph & Penny Ashton were new to me and I enjoyed both sets. Shadè’s heavily influenced by music/musicians and Penny’s was humorous, rude, sexy and delightful! I also owe her big time for finding my fiver and train ticket that had fallen out of my pocket earlier in the evening. (Mr G. reminds me to use my purse, I have at least 10!)
It was (as always) an immensely fun evening, the rock world of poetry in my opinion. It was also the German Christmas Market outside so the streets of the city were very much alive at the beginning of the night but had all packed up by the time us late-night Poets made our way home.
From London, Shadè Joseph
Shadè Joseph is a 23 year old Writer/Musician from East London.
She has been writing/performing poetry and producing, composing and accompanying musicians singer/songwriters and poets for the past four years and worked alongside the likes of London Symphony Orchestra, Ayanna Witter -Johnson, Caleb Femi, Tolu Agbelusi, Tshaka Campbell and Buddy Wakefield. When she’s not doing all of that good stuff she’s probably somewhere laughing or dancing or eating plantain chips or giving someone a hug.
From Northampton, Roger Robinson
Roger Robinson has performed worldwide and is an experienced workshop leader and lecturer on poetry. He was chosen by Decibel as one of 50 writers who have influenced the black-British writing canon. He received commissions from The National Trust, London Open House, The National Portrait Gallery, The V&A, INIVA and Theatre Royal Stratford East where he also was an associate artist.
He was shortlisted for The OCM Bocas Poetry Prize and highly commended by the Forward Poetry Prize 2013. He has toured extensively with the British Council and is a co-founder of both Spoke Lab and the international writing collective Malika’s Kitchen and is an alumni of The Complete Works. His New and Selected Poems is soon to be published on Peepal Tree Press.
He released two albums with Disrupt on every reggae lovers favourite label Jahtari in 2015 and is a founding member of King Midas Sound on Ninja Tune.
From New Zealand, Penny Ashton,
Penny Ashton is New Zealand’s own global comedienne who has been making a splash on the world stage since 2002. She has performed over 600 solo shows and has sold out from Edinburgh to Adelaide to Edmonton. She has represented both New Zealand in The World Cup of Theatresports in Germany, and Australasia in a Performance Poetry Slam Tournament Tour of the UK. She has also performed poetry by invitation at The Glastonbury Festival, her solo musical Promise and Promiscuity at The Jane Austen Festival in Bath and has reported from the Miss Universe Pageant in Las Vegas.
© Penny Ashton Womad, Roger Robinson Twitter, Shadè Joseph You Tube
Sparks YW group celebrated Mickey Mouse’s Birthday with a session on Comic Strips/Graphic Novels.
I had the rest of the weekend off with Mr. G.
Monday night saw the V.I.P Launch of the Verve Poetry/Spoken Word Festival. I was invited last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. This year was just as wonderful. The evening included performances from Sean Colletti, Casey Bailey & Liz Berry, who are all featuring in the 2018 programme, which I also got my hands on. Workshops have been booked and I have a festival pass request in with Santa!
I spent the night whizzing around Waterstones, twirling into people, briefly conversing, hugging & generally enjoying the atmosphere.
My glittery lipstick went down a storm too, although having forgotten the application, I wondered why people were staring at my mouth.
Read all about it here
I have my tickets booked already and suggest you do the same! The Liz Berry workshop SOLD OUT within 3 days, so glad I bagged my ticket.
This week also saw a new project get off the ground for WPL. An idea first floated back in July to The Basement Project for some community workshops. I am delighted after meeting the team this morning to have these booked in for Spring 2018.
The Basement Project is run by volunteers who do very important work and provide support and advice to 16-25 year olds who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. Find out more about them here.
I mainly worked on submissions and balancing my time with life offline and out of poetry books/events. I was sad to have to cancel my radio slot with Tammy Gooding on BBC Hereford & Worcester this week.
Thursday night saw a superb event at Waterstones, Burning Eye Book Launch. Having had less than a week of work this academic year, my funds are definitely in the red and with Christmas Shopping to do I have cut back on both travel and events for December, starting this week. I also feel the need for balance and time at home. I need to re-energise and with this in mind, I was not too gutted when my Friday gig was cancelled.
I finally started to fill in the blog gaps, with my review posts of Poetry Swindon Festival (October).
I also wrote some Guest Blog posts for Warwickshire Libraries for my Reader in Residence role. My first workshop is next week.
I was saving all my energy for Saturday – and I certainly needed to.
Saturday saw a day at Croome Court for the official Adam Speaks NT project event that I have been involved in with Room 204 since May.
Events started at midday with the official speeches at 3 and the grand opening 3:30 PM
I arrived at 1:30 with plenty of time to take in the events, the Tree House and catch up with people working on the project. I am writing a full review early next week and will add the link back here. There is so much to say about today. A wow day indeed!
© 2017 Nina Lewis
I also sent lots of submissions this month, finally back in the saddle after 5 months of WPL/Events Management/ Performance work. So far, the inbox has amassed a collection of rejections, I was shortlisted for one anthology, sadly have since found my poems won’t be included. This is the way it goes sometimes. I am okay with that. I am just happy I have started writing and submitting again.
I also FINALLY started to gather ideas for the next book. I was beginning to think this would never happen. It has happened, it has started, 3 pages of notes and a trawl through current files has set it well on its way.
I missed several events due to lack of funds, time and energy and you know, I am beginning to learn the gentle act of forgiveness for such things. I knew I wanted to wind down a bit in December – necessary as I need to give time to home and family.
One event I did NOT want to miss was Jacqui Rowe’s final Poetry Bites. She has been organising this bi-monthly event for years. She has encouraged over 500 poets in floor spots and 70 Guest Poets too. She has hosted Poetry Bites for over 10 years.
Antony Owen and Jacqui Rowe were the featured poets with 17 floor spots. It was great to hear a whole set from Jacqui, whose collection ‘Blink’ has just been released by V. Press. Antony’s set brought me to tears several times. I would urge you to buy The Nagasaki Elder (V. Press) too. Put them both on Christmas lists, these are books which need to be read.
© Roz Goddard
Poetry Bites will be continuing, in the capable hands of Elaine Christie and Matt Nunn. It will still be the fourth Tuesday of January, March, May, July, September, and November at the Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath.
This week I also secured a school poetry workshop that has been in development since the beginning of October. It will happen in March 2018.
I also took a booking for an event at the Birmingham Midland Institute for May 2018. I really need to get my hands on a new diary, I have a special one on my Christmas List. One I have wanted since 2014. A special Mslexia Diary.
I also secured some exciting opportunities for Verve Poetry & Spoken Word Festival. 2018 is going to rock!
Started with clashing events – Spoken Trend in Kings Norton had Casey Bailey and Theo Theobald as the Headliners, but I had already committed to 42 in Worcester. These events always clash, so I try to divide my time between them.
42 has been hosted by Polly Stretton for a while now and this year she introduced guest hosts to MC. I have known who the November MC will be and I promised them months ago I would be there. I also wrote my ‘Haunted Castle’ themed poem a month ago too, although having left it to rest I know it needs a bit of editing work.
It was an enjoyable evening after I managed to get there for the 2nd half. The Victorian Christmas Fayre is in town and the car park closest to the venue is fully fun fair! I knew this, I didn’t like to use a multi-storey and as I entered every other available car park I either found them to be full or one car sneaking into the last space. After several circuits of the city and resisting a turn back home, twice(!) I finally parked miles away, with a 20 minute brisk walk back to the venue. It was worth it though. I dusted off ‘The Stanley Hotel’ with newly recorded soundbites too.
Thursday 30th saw me deliver my first workshop as the Reader in Residence in Rugby.
Which despite finishing planning and researching in October, I used another 7 hours prepping a few days before. This meant end of month submissions were tight. It was a great workshop – blogpost soon.
I also had the opportunity to go a special reading/recording of a new pamphlet, terribly exciting both the anticipation of the launch/book (next month) and also this recording. Claire Walker’s 2nd Pamphlet ‘Somewhere Between Rose and Black’ published by V. Press Launches on 9th December. Yesterday she invited some of us to a closed reading as part of her interview with a BBC Online Journalist. Unfortunately it happened whilst I was out on the road after the workshop*.
Why do so many brilliant things always have to clash? I have had many whole weeks with no work for months since July and now it has finally started to trickle in this happens!
Frustrating. But great that there is so much going on.
*I don’t want this to become an angry blogpost about the state of the roads – but my journey across took over 1hr 40 mins today and parking was once again a problem. Next workshop I am setting out super early!
© Deborah Alma
December was meant to be a month off but the amount of events in the diary already prove that this will not quite be the case. I am going to start working on my next collection and take at least 10 days off completely just to do Christmas things. Mr G. and I both get a fortnight off work so that should be feasible.
It might take 10 days to get my room Christmas ready!