Tag Archives: Cheltenham Poetry Festival

Arrival at Elsewhere – Cheltenham Poetry Festival

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I was lucky enough to be at this Reading, hosted by Cheltenham Poetry Festival at the beginning of March (4th). It was incredibly moving and the whole time I was thinking what a powerhouse of a project it was, what an undertaking. Although, in the Q&A Carl Griffin (curator) brushed it off as not being overly complicated. Many of us feel we wouldn’t have known where to begin. He started with a kitchen table and some cut up pieces. Carl looked for pattern and he was certainly able to orchestrate that. It was interesting to hear about the process of the book coming together from the initial idea to the finished product. I am still amazed at the seaming of 100 voices into one book length poem.

Carl Griffin talks more about the process here.

This book is more than a chronical of our times.

Money raised from book sales goes to NHS Charities Together. The link below the book cover will take you to the ordering page. £11.99 incl P&P to UK/ £13.99 to the rest of the world.

You can watch an extract/ film poem by Karen Dennison.

This was originally posted on movingpoems.com

You can read an excerpt from the book here.

As well as sharing work from Arrival at Elsewhere the poets shared some of their own work. George Szirtes treated us, revealing some new poems from his next book.

Abegail Morley

Julian Stannard

John Glenday

Graham Clifford

George Szirtes

Here is the information from Cheltenham Poetry Festival about the event and the Publisher (Against the Grain Poetry Press) promotion.

A reading from the epic, pandemic-inspired book – Arrival at Elsewhere( Against the Grain Press).

Arrival at Elsewhere is a ground-breaking, book-length poem, curated by Carl Griffin, in which poets from across the world speak in one voice in response to 2020’s life-changing pandemic.

Arrival at Elsewhere symbolises the fact that all people, no matter our differences, are equally vulnerable, and this rich and eclectic joint voice is a made up of a multitude of individual experiences.

This book-length poem contains lines from T.S. Eliot Prize winners (Philip Gross, Sean O’Brien, George Szirtes), National Poetry Competition winners (Linda France, Beatrice Garland), and a Pulitzer Prize winner (Yusef Komunyakaa), alongside several newcomers and overlooked veteran poets, and seeks to raise money for NHS.

The book is edited by Carl Griffin. Carl Griffin lives in Swansea, in South Wales. He has written extensively on Welsh poetry and poets, in the form of reviews and essays. Though born in Stockton-on-Tees, in 1984, he has spent most of his life living in each of the Welsh cities, and these are the places that inspire many of his poems.  His poetry collection, Throat of Hawthorn, was a winner of the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize and was published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.

Readers at the event include  Abegail Morley, George Szirtes, John Glenday, Julian Stannard and Graham Clifford.

© Cheltenham Poetry Festival 2021

In this book-length poem, curated by Carl Griffin, poets from across the world speak in one voice in response to 2020’s life-changing pandemic. Not a definitive voice, nor an authoritative one. But a contrasting, contradicting, confused voice, set both in the UK and everywhere else, represented by one narrator who, just like the rest of us, is made up of a hundred different people. A narrator cohesive only in his/her/their contemplation of Elsewhere.

Elsewhere has arrived…

to everyone affected by the Covid-19 pandemic – in aid of NHS Charities Together

PUBLISHER NOTE

When the idea for this book was pitched to us it was still fairly early in the global Covid-19 pandemic. We were all still probably in a state of shock. All locked down, uncertain what was happening – we certainly felt we had landed in a new place. All three of us, like many poets, were unsure how to creatively assess this new situation. That’s why we wanted to support this book. A collaboration of sorts, a creation of a road through all the work of poets who contributed to its making and a maker who has sensitively crafted this winding path of a poem from all our tongues. We are happy to support this work and its intention to support the NHS.

Abegail Morley, Karen Dennison and Jessica Mookherjee
Against the Grain Poetry Press

© Against the Grain Poetry Press 2021

Book Launch Nature at a Cost by Annie Ellis

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Annie is a much-loved member of the Cheltenham Poetry Festival team and her Book Launch was hosted by them. Presented by Howard Timms. 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’.

It was a pleasure listening to all the poems, a delight to watch her excitement as Guest Readers shared some of their own poetry and read poems picked from her first collection. It is always exciting to hear your words coming from the mouth of another. Something magical about that process. I was touched when several readers shared poems written especially for Annie or inspired by poems in this collection. Annie’s Special Guests were Ben Ray, Anna Saunders, Zoe Brooks and Ankh Spice. In addition to these four powerful poets, Annie had asked other members of the poetry community to read a poem from the collection.

It was an honour to be there, to listen, to watch, to see. The witness and kinship. Annie’s poems bring nature in until it becomes us (as it should be, as it is). We are, after all part of it, we are it, it is us. As more people (through Lockdown Nature) are realising and we’re all bearing witness to the proof of our ecological impact.

About the Book

Nature at a Cost is a collection of poems essentially focusing on the interaction between humans and the environment. Poet Annie Ellis explores the impact that our way of life is having on other species that share our planet, offering a unique perspective on the disturbing situation we are currently creating. Her words send a powerful message to all of us to protect rather than exploit the natural world, to bring harmony and balance for a better future.

Extracts from the testimonials for Nature at a Cost 
A collection of vivid and beautifully observed poems by a writer who loves nature in all its manifestations – from the jack-of-all-trades to the king of the pack, all the creatures in this charming collection are depicted with awe and delight.
Anna Saunders, CEO of the Cheltenham Poetry Festival and poet

A raw, real and honest update on the Romantics’ odes to the natural world, Nature at a Cost is an engrossing and challenging collection which flows from the page as naturally as the rivers and forests it describes – a haunting love letter to the natural world, which stays with the reader long after the final stanza. Sometimes unsettling and uncomfortable in its questioning of our self-centred perception of the world, Ellis is not afraid to explore the nature’s raw and often violent mechanics: seals twist in water to escape ‘a cave of daggers’, millions of ladybirds bury a small town, and the seasons turn unstoppably in ‘pompoms of autumn fizz’. Ellis is disarmingly honest and open about her own position in this wildness, which she finds reflected inside herself: ‘I feel the pain of solitude, / with the twist of time coming round.’ Yet throughout this collection, Ellis’ writing consistently holds a deep love and respect for nature and its inhabitants. This is twinned with a keen and subtle eye for observation: goats ‘wander like lost pebbles’, whilst ducks swim in an ‘army of ripples’. As the collection’s title suggests, there is an underlying tension between the human and wild here: but Ellis masterfully negotiates this distance, using poetry as the bridge to carry us from the familiar into the wilderness. In the final poem, a tree speaks of this innate connection: ‘find me in the pencil / you are holding.’ If you are looking for this entry point into the wilds, look no further than Nature at a Cost.  
Ben Ray

‘Nature at a Cost’ beckons you to step beyond your comfortable human skin and allow your boundaries to be repainted in a wilder shape. Ellis’s poetic gift is for suspending time on the wing, on the hoof, the claw, or the branch – she offers vivid moment after moment as a series of natural Attenborough-esque observations, still moving as we watch – or better still as we step in with the poet to channel our consciousness into her global family of flora and fauna, weather and wile. In this time of disconnection from the deep and intimate living our own animal experience could, and should, offer us, this collection is a clarion call to find the edges we have forgotten, and to redefine what we notice and protect as valuable.
‘Because of you I want to keep living’ realises Ellis in ‘Wolf’, and it is truly that simple. We are in the quietly clamouring presence of every reason to persist in symbiosis, not at odds, and every beast captured by this poet’s keen and tender lens shows us how – from revelling ladybug to nursing doe to goats on the edge. This collection is, in every sense, a vital one.

Ankh Spice, Co-Editor of Ice Floe Press.

– Source Cheltenham Poetry Festival

You can order a copy of Annie’s collection here.

Congratulations to Annie Ellis.

Monthly Review December 2020

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We had a day of snow shortly after Christmas, a good thick layer to enjoy, enough to take our minds off things for a while. Christmas was different for us all this year, but through the powers of technology we managed to see/hear each other, it felt even more special to share parts of our day. Last year we were lucky enough to share a big family Christmas, like those we remembered from childhood – reflecting back on the few days we all spent together was a pleasure.

Today we are all looking forward to seeing this year out – we have fireworks to look forward to, but no parties, which means no sore feet tomorrow though!

December was a month with very little work, I delivered my last Star Centre Workshops in the series and attended lots of events. We had the final Dear 2021 session with Nik Perring, more on this when the work is realised. One of my poems made it into the book which was produced as part of this project. I completed my Beta-Reader task, attended a Mona Arshi reading delivered by the University of Worcester, it was a cracking event, it has been years since I’d seen Mona and I admire her work. https://monaarshi.com/

I enjoyed the last two Poetry Workshops with Sara-Jane Arbury & Ledbury Poetry Festival and a special poetry event at The Hive facilitated by Amanda Bonnick & Polly Stretton, a Poetry Bubble online event. Hoping they have more in the future. It clashed with the Forward Reading, organised by Cath Drake. I have since discovered it’s available on YOU TUBE, as Cath wanted to share the event with her Australian audience too. And Mr G. (as is tradition) gifted me The Forward Poetry Book 2021 for Christmas!

A LIVE recording of a selection of poets Highly Commended in the Forward Prizes, included in the 2021 anthology, who launched a book our during this pandemic year:

Colette Bryce reads from ‘The M Pages’ /Matthew Francis reads from ‘Wing’ /Maria Ferguson reads from ‘Alright, Girl?’ /Mina Gorji reads from ‘The Art of Escape’ /Cath Drake reads from ‘The Shaking City’ /Katherine Horrex reads from ‘Growlery’ /Shane McCrae reads from ‘Sometimes I Never Suffered’ /Abegail Morley reads from ‘The Unmapped Woman’ /Julian Stannard reads from ‘Heat Wave’ /Maria Taylor reads from ‘Dressing for the Afterlife.

‘The Poetry Oscars’ – The Telegraph. Buy your copy here.

https://www.faber.co.uk/catalog/product/view/id/7724/s/9780571362486-the-forward-book-of-poetry-2021/

Treat yourselves to watching this incredible collection of poets reading their work at the very least!

I managed to get to another Creative Writing workshop with Sheffield Libraries and have since discovered they have purchased a copy of Patience for the library, which is great news!

We had Birthdays to celebrate in our family in December, I saw my Grandma (socially distanced/ I was outside in the garden) for her Birthday – first time I have seen her since March! And Emily Dickinson celebrated her 190th Birthday at the Museum with an epic programme of events which I was still watching in the early hours. I spontaneously shared two short poems I wrote during the Tell It Slant Festival earlier this year, it was a great night. https://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/emily-dickinson-birthday-december-10-2020/

I managed to get to the USA to catch Julie Danto‘s Book Launch and reunited with some of the Worcester County Poetry Association (WCPA) poets in Massachusetts, who I created A Tale of Two Cities with a couple of years ago.

And I managed a couple of workshops with Rakaya Fetuga again. I watched the Michael Marks Awards and enjoyed Jessica Mookherjee and Sean Wai Keung at Cafe Writers, I got to the Room 204 Christmas Party and have a little catch up and a bit of pre-Christmas cheer. WLF had SpeakEasy featuring Raine Geoghegan and it was a magical Christmassy event! The next one is in February.

We had a reading to celebrate the end of the Ledbury workshops, it was a treat to hear everyone. I had some studio time in Emily Dickinson’s bedroom at the Museum, it is my 2nd visit there this year. Something very calming and slightly magical about this space.

Words Stafford had a Tanka competition – which I couldn’t resist – I love writing short form poetry. The theme was Steampunk, my research was fascinating and inspiring. 10 of us had poems chosen and were able to read at the event, sadly mine were not in the Top 3 (Prize Winners) and I love the Anti-poet, the prize was Paul’s Steampunk novel The Periwinkle Perspective – The Giant Step – Volume 1 by Paul Eccentric. It was a fun night and the winning poems were fantastic!

In the final week before Christmas I completed some Christmas writing with Nik Perring and spent an amazing night at Cheltenham Poetry Festival enjoying John Hegley and making up captions for one of his sketches, a new talent discovered (not John – I knew he drew), it was a perfect Christmas Party and not a photocopier in sight!

This week I wrote a couple of applications and I finally made some end of month submissions (NY Resolution started early) and enjoyed a night of Disquieting Christmas stories and poems with Polly Stretton at Worcester, 42.

I hope you all managed to have a good Christmas despite restrictions and the state of our world at the moment.

Be kind to each other and stay safe.

Flashback Autumn (Nov)

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November finally saw a return to work after 8 months, an anxious time but also a great relief! It was a busy month on and offline. I had more medical appointments and another hospital appointment. But the balance was a month packed with Poetry / Literary Festivals!

At the end of October and beginning of November I enjoyed Dodge Poetry Festival and the packed programme of poetry. I shared a sea theme poem at Wirral Poetry Festival at an evening featuring Philip Gross, watched Andrew McMillan at Todmorden Book Festival, saw Padraig O’Tauna read several times. Watched Sandwell Stories, enjoyed Ankh Spice back in action at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival, HAY had a WINTER Festival Weekend. I joined the final weekend of Culturama.

I had the opportunity to watch Heidi Williamson in action again at The Oxford Centre for Life Writing, Worcester University have also brought part of the Creative Writing Readings online and I managed to catch Hannah Lowe in action (it has been many years since I last saw her read). I caught an event at the Uni of Oxford with Rishi Dastidar on The Craft – a book he wrote a few years ago.

I enjoyed the tail end (dog pun) of Matt Black‘s Book Launch – ‘Sniffing Lamp-posts by Moonlight’ A fundraising book of dog poems.

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I did a workshop with Lansing Poet Laureate, Laura Apol, I attended more Creative Conversations at Glasgow University, I enjoyed events at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, continued with Ledbury Poetry Festival workshops, Poets in Motion and Food for Thought and Grief workshops, we had an open mic to celebrate the end of the Hybrid Experimental Memoir with Tawnya Renelle – a relaxed and fun affair!

I did a Nevada Hall of Fame workshop and a personal highlight of the month was the George Szirtes workshop thanks to Artful Scibe, Mayflower 400 Celebrations in Southampton.

I got involved writing for the Rebellion series with Sheffield Libraries and Nik Perring and started work on his Dear 2020/21 project in association with the BBC/Novels that Shaped Our World and Sheffield Libraries. More news to come. Room 204 provided a special workshop with Thomas Glave, in which we reflected on 2020.

I forgave myself for the deadlines whizzing past and focussed on the successes.

I was a featured poet at Virtual Voices Offa’s Press (10th Nov.) alongside Kenton Samuels, Keith Rogers, Santosh K. Dary and Jeff Phelps. I read at the Reimagine Festival (USA) as part of Redwing’s Poetry for Healing group.

I was one of 11 poets in the Royal British Legion’s 11/11 Challenge for The Poppy Appeal – organised by Leena Batchelor, Worcestershire Poet Laureate. Find out more here https://worcesterlitfest.co.uk/2020/12/16/wpl-poppy-appeal-continues/.

I ran a series of Workshops for The National Star Centre, my gratitude to Ruth, Paul and the team in Cheltenham and to Cheltenham Poetry Festival. These were rewarding mornings where inspiration travelled in both directions!

I was published in the BLER Light Anthology (Black Light Engine Room), had two poems published in Corona, an Anthology of Poems – Edited by Gayl Teller in USA (more on this soon), I had a Renga accepted for a collaborative project in the US, I had two poems published in Geography is IrrelevantStairwell Books http://www.stairwellbooks.co.uk/product/geography-is-irrelevant/. This anthology includes International Poets who were active online at events in the UK during 2020. More on this soon and a poem accepted for the Dear 2021 Pamphlet produced for the Year of Reading/BBC/ Novels that Shaped Our World with Nik Perring.

Like many of us I wrote about the pandemic in the end (resistance was futile, especially as I self-isolated and had a limited palette of outside life experiences) -not that inspiration was lacking, with all the workshops and 5 notepads of ideas… anyway, I wrote Covid poems and didn’t submit them to any of the Lockdown projects or websites collecting such things. I am grateful that there were a few options left at the end of the year, places to to share them. Now, like the rest of 2020 they can be released!

Flashback Autumn (Oct)

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October the 1st was NPD (National Poetry Day) and there were many exciting online events to bite into and for once I could use the entire day for poetry, as no work came through in October either! I joined other local poets celebrating poetry and favourite poems on Worcestershire Libraries website for The Hive.

If you use #ShareAPoem you should find lots of videos on You Tube, here’s mine – a poem from Fragile Houses (V. Press, 2016), written during Jo Bell’s amazing 52 Project in 2014/15.

#ShareAPoem

Lots more can be found on the National Poetry Day channel, like this one by Malika Booker.

I enjoyed a creative writing workshop with Sheffield Libraries, sharing our favourite poems on the theme of vision (NPD theme), followed by Heather Wastie‘s Book Launch ‘To the Future, Love Cropredy’ is a collaboration with boat-dwelling visual artist Louise Regan. After I caught the Nine Arches Press and Birmingham Literature Festival event The New Romantics: A Poetry Cabaret With Gregory Leadbetter, Rosie Garland and Maria Taylor, which was superb! Later I went to a Reading at the Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst Arts Night Virtual Reading with Taylor Johnson, Brionne Janae and Rage Hezekiah.

In between I enjoyed NPD unrolling on the main site and even joined in on Instagram. A month of poetry in one day! I managed to watch the other events featured above the next day.

I attended PPP events Yes We Cant, Live from The Butchery Helen Ivory & Martin Figura as well as events at the Walt Whitman Birthplace. I continued with Redwing’s workshops, Poets in Motion and Hybrid Experimental Memoir classes. I managed to get back to Oooh Beehive, Poetry Cafe, Cafe Writers and Worcester 42.
I did a workshop with Marcus Jackson, hosted a Mental Health & Wellbeing Event for WLF, went to Goldsmiths Readings, Jerwood Fellowships produced more Poetry Take Overs and I joined some community workshops offered by Ledbury Poetry Festival, facilitated and created by Sara-Jane Arbury.
The University of Glasgow offered Creative Conversations and I was able to catch some of them, Sheffield Libraries offered more workshops with Nik Perring and Utopia Theatre offered workshops too.

I joined in the EmeryArts 2020 with an Ekphrastic workshop with Sarah Kobrinsky, which led to a performance this month (more below) and publication. I met a poet working in the 90s who knew poets I am friends with, from way back in my fledging days on the circuit. They appeared in the UK after I left for Kent, so we never met. Missed each other – funny to fill the circles in decades later!

Bountiful month for Festivals including: the Red Line Book Festival, Lyra Festival Bristol, Toronto International Festival of Authors (a fantastic programme), Manchester Literature Festival, The Stay @ Home Fringe Festival had a second run, Birmingham Literature Festival ran from the 1st– 17th October and Cheltenham Poetry Festival continued to run fantastic online events. I saw Sascha Akhtar and Juliette Van Der Molan (the next Virtual Poet in Residence).

I attended the Book Launches of Z. D DicksVexed (Hedgehog Press, 2020) https://www.hedgehogpress.co.uk/2020/10/11/pre-orderzddicks-vexed/

Gregory LeadbetterMaskwork (Nine Arches Press, 2020)

Ian McMillanYes But What Is This? What Exactly? (Smith|Doorstop, 2020)

And Zoe Brooks Owl Unbound (IDP, 2020) https://zoebrooks.blogspot.com/p/owl-unbound.html a wonderful evening of poetry and a Cheltenham Poetry Festival Event.

I featured at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, a brilliant evening! Then I pretended my lounge was an airport lounge and settled down for an hour on the settee before heading back online in the early hours of the morning to be part of the EmeryArts 2020 Reading. You can watch it here https://www.emeryarts.org/poetry.

I was asked to headline Virtual Voices Offa’s Press, this was one of the many real bookings that was lost to 2020. I created an event inspired by the alternative/gothic/sci-fi nights atWorcester 42. The Story Salon is designed to feature short stories which are too long for an open mic. The Halloween edition was called Jack ‘n’ Gory (a take on Jackanory, which was a favourite story time TV show in the 80s). An audience of fearless listeners were treated to a short performance from Suz Winspear. It was great and gave us all an excuse for Fancy Dress.

42 is where I traditionally don my Halloween costume, but the day after was a very special Birthday for a relative this year who I had no wish to shock with left over Halloween make-up, especially as I had not seen her since the start of Lockdown in March.

I also took part in some filming – more on this project soon.

Traditionally I have held INKSPILL in October. The last one was in 2018, it was ready to go before I ended up in hospital – there is a lot of work behind offering a retreat for a weekend and unfortunately I wasn’t strong enough last year and this year there was so much offered online it didn’t seem possible. I am hoping next Autumn we may have another one.

Flashback Summer (Aug)

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August was still patchy with sun and I was able to enjoy the garden. I was beginning to feel the edge of cabin fever. I slowed down online with extra events and focused on writing and reading. It was as strange as all the other months this year. I had hoped my birthday wouldn’t be in Lockdown – I’d seen and attended some awesome, creative celebrations online – I just couldn’t face the extra screen time. Mr G. and I planned to use one of the socially distanced restaurants and go out for the first time since March, but I got too scared.

I went to Jonathan Davidson‘s Book Launch for Commonplace, Smith | Doorstop, 2020. https://jonathandavidson.net/blog-2/books/a-commonplace/

I read at Polly Stretton‘s launch of The Alchemy of 42, Black Pear Press, 20220. https://blackpear.net/2020/07/31/the-alchemy-of-42-launch/

I read my cathedral poems at the launch of the ‘Call & Response’ anthology compiled by Amanda Bonnick, Poet in Residence at Worcester Cathedral. https://blackpear.net/2020/07/22/an-invitation-to-the-launch-of-call-and-response/

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I finally made some submissions. I spent hours writing applications, which were unsuccessful in results but updated all my paperwork ready for when the right one does come along!

We had a wonderful International Reading again for Cath Drake‘s Writing course Reinvent the Future – this time with Malika Booker as Guest Poet. It was another wonderful event.

Cath Drake
Malika Booker

Melbourne Spoken Word Festival continued, Army@Fringe hosted a Virtual Festival with lots of programmes about theatre writing, Jinny Fisher hosted another Poetry Pram event, Wendy Pratt hosted one day retreats, and PPP continued with many events and classes. I finally got to some events in New Zealand and made it back to Fire & Dust (Coventry) to see Genevieve Carver, I saw Joelle Taylor and Laura Scott at Cafe Writers. I managed to Zoom to Stafford WORDS Myths & Legends. I started attending some of the creative writing workshops held at Sheffield Libraries, they have raised a whole community online. Wonderful work. I started workshops with Nik Perring , Reader in Residence at Sheffield Libraries, who have all been great and productive. I attended a few seminars and talks.

I joined Celena Diane‘s Poets in Motion and had a great time at the Wirral Poetry Festival with Brian Wake, writing from ‘At the Circus’ prompts and artwork. Love an ekphrastic poem & poet/artists projects. I get involved with them as often as I can. I was asked to be Poet in Residence (virtually) for Cheltenham Poetry Festival.

I finished my Connect Dudley commission and Worcestershire LitFest went online. We held the delayed interviews for the next Worcestershire Poet Laureate.

So, my birthday was quiet – but we are still safe.

Five months into the pandemic and most of us know someone who has suffered. My heart goes out to all the families who’ve lost more than birthdays this year. The Lockdown is difficult to cope with – but suffering from Covid – there are no words, just huge thanks to those tasked with trying to help us.

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).

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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!

Cheltenham Poetry Festival

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chelt PF Poster

Cheltenham Poetry Festival has an amazing programme of events this year, many of them I have sadly missed as I am back in full time work, however tonight I am there!

Smokey Joes has 3 back to back events this evening:

5 PM

Neil Richards and John Row

Join the ‘bewitching’ (The Independent) John Rowe for an hour of poetry and storytelling with guest Neil Richards. John is renowned for his dramatic and immersive events which offer an entertaining commentary on love, life and politics in modern times.

John is joined by Neil Richards, an exciting new voice on the poetry scene who is gaining a following for his charismatic and powerful performances of dazzlingly original experimental poetry.

Cheltenham Poetry Festival © 2018

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7 PM

Indigo Dreams Showcase

Indigo Dreams Showcase – Chrys Salt, Chris Hardy, Anna Saunders and Amy Kinsman

Indigo Dreams is an award-winning publisher renowned for its beautifully produced collections of contemporary poetry by both new and established writers. The press was voted Most Innovative Publisher 2017 at the annual Saboteur Awards. Join us for a feast of verse as four authors from the press read from their brand-new publications.

Chris Hardy (‘Chris consistently hits the right note’ -(Roger McGough), poet, musician and member of LiTTLe MACHiNe reads from Sunshine At The End Of The World.

Chrys Salt (‘a wonderful and unique poet’ -Bernard Kops), reads from The Punkawallah’s Rope.

Festival Founder and Director Anna Saunders (‘a poet who can surely do anything’ – The North) reads from Ghosting for Beginners.

The showcase also includes a reading by one of the joint winners of the Indigo Dreams 2017 Pamphlet Competition. Amy Kinsman is a multi-published poet and playwright from Manchester.

Cheltenham Poetry Festival © 2018

chelt

9 PM

Nina Lewis – Fragile Houses plus guests + open mic

 

 

Nina Lewis – Fragile Houses

plus guests and Open Mic Readings

‘In our family, minds go missing’. Nina Lewis writes, in one of a series of moving and poignant poems about family life from Fragile Houses (V Press), a pamphlet praised for its ‘tremendous warmth and descriptive power’.

In this highly praised volume Nina Lewis explores the people, places and memories carried through life and deftly examines the human condition through the lens of family relationships.

Nina is joined by Peter McDade – expect deliciously surreal, and thought- provoking poetry from this talented and erudite poet who has drawn comparisons with Ivor Cutler.

This event also includes an open mic. Come and share your poems on the subject of ‘home’.

Cheltenham Poetry Festival © 2018

It is going to be a cracking evening of poetry, so come and join the fun!

March Review 2018

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This month I got stuck into two new projects, missed several events due to the snow, submitted poems, sent proof copies/edited Special Edition Contour Magazine in preparation for the next issue launch (April) ATOTC, organised a poetry exhibition at the Jinney Ring & a Hanbury Reading for the Sculpture Trail Poets, facilitated 1 community workshop and 2 school workshops, dressed as Little Miss Splendid for World Book Day, worked on a special celebration of poetry to mark International Women’s Day, finished my Reader in Residence residency at Rugby Library with WMRN, did Poetry on Demand for Mother’s Day, organised my official WPL remit World Poetry Day event, took my WWM Spark Young Writers group through the editing process, attended the final Room 204 17/18 cohort meeting, a Book Launch, celebrated Earth Day and worked pretty much full time as a one week contract turned into 3 weeks!

I now feel and look about 10 years older!

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Week 1: The Snow

I missed Images from the Past at The Hive, due to snow and a workshop and oakley’s Book Launch for the same reason.

I was booked for an exciting event as part of the Anchor Gallery in April and asked to do Stablemates – which I would have loved, but the date clashed with my appearance at Cheltenham Poetry Festival.

I facilitated the 1st of 3 workshops booked with The Basement Project, a charity in Bromsgrove. The first community workshop (in WPL role) was Arts & Words where participants created their own canvas. It was a successful morning and gave me a welcome break from the classroom. The snow meant we were thin on the ground, but those involved had a good time.

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Read more here.

 

Week 2: Planning, Poetry on Demand & New Projects

All of the final proofs from ATOTC were sent.

I planned my next workshop, this one at a school in Worcester. Gathering the resources and researching the subject matter. I missed Stirchley Speaks with Cynthia Miller as work is exhausting and I am busy online for most of the evening when I get home, mainly with ATOTC – now in proof reading stages with copy flying out to 46 poets.

I was booked as part of an event for this year’s Worcester LitFest alongside the new Poet Laureate (my time finishes on 10th June).

I attended an exciting meeting in Ledbury with Rick Sanders as he unveiled the 2nd PoArtry project. I have been buddied up with Molly Bythell – a talented young artist and cannot wait to make a start on this.

I missed the MeToo Anthology Launch in Birmingham because I was asleep before 6:30 after a particularly bad end to an otherwise good but tiring week of work.

On Saturday I had my WWM writing group and ran a workshop (at their request) on editing and we wrote about mum’s too with Mother’s Day being so close.

From Worcester I hot-footed to Rugby for a job as Poetry on Demand for Mother’s Day. I wrote bespoke poems and made lots of people very happy.

It was an exhausting but fun day!

 

Week 3: Workshops, Interviews & Book Launches

The week started with full days of work (a one week temporary cover  turned into 3 weeks full-time, with a day off for good behaviour/ I mean pre-booked workshops)!

On Thursday I filled an entire day with poetry to make up for all the poetry I had missed from being too exhausted after work!

My School Workshops at Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College in October were postponed. I was delighted to offer new bespoke workshops to fit the work they have been doing on Monsters. It was a fantastic, fun morning and they thoroughly enjoyed it.

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You can read a review here

From there I hot-footed across to BBC Hereford & Worcester for my radio interview with Tammy Gooding, where I was able to promote WPD.

The evening saw 3 clashing events. I went to Math Jones’ Book Launch of Sabrina Bridge published by Black Pear Press. This was the 2nd collection I was asked to endorse and it is a magical read. It was wonderful to watch Math breathe fire into his work in a stellar performance. Being an actor helps! It was great fun and an opportunity to see Suz Winspear, Jenny Hope, Polly Stretton and Keleigh Wolf perform too.

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I missed Stanza but spent the evening prepping for my next school workshop next week, creating film clips and found poetry texts. I also wrote copy to promote World Poetry Day.

I had the final Room 204 Cohort meeting on Saturday at The Custard Factory, crazy to think nearly 12 months has gone already, the new cohort will be announced mid-April, exciting to think they already know who they are.

This was followed by a new project with Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, encompassing two weekend workshops and a performance at BMAG – and involves using their digital archive. None of us really knew what it would entail but I am always up for an afternoon in a Museum/Art Gallery, notebook in hand.

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Wikimedia © 2018

It all sounded intriguing and I had a fun afternoon filling myself up with artefact inspiration.

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Birmingham Museums Trust © 2018

Sunday – a day of rest? No, Mr G and I are expecting some much needed work on the house and we spent the day clearing spaces!

 

Week 4 Workshops, World Poetry Day and Earth Hour

How is it the last week of March already? The week started with my Inter-School Gifted & Talented workshop at Bromsgrove School with the theme of Nature. nature-3231651_1920

Where I had prepared a film element in case our Nature Walk was eradicated by weather – the snow and a mini-beast storm was forecast over the weekend. It certainly rained!

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It was an action packed afternoon and great fun. A full review can be found here

I spent the beginning of the week (3 days) preparing for World Poetry Day, this was an evening event and the only official task I had to undertake in my WPL (Worcestershire Poet Laureate) remit.

WPD FLYER 2018

After months of preparation Wednesday 21st arrived and I spent the day with high alert butterflies and every organiser worst worry – will there be an audience?

It was a fabulous night! People came and enjoyed and all the performers were exceptional. A full review can be read here.

 

On Saturday I had the 2nd workshop for the BMAG Rebel Uncut Digital Archive project. This was my first ever Hackathon and a long day 8-6pm – on site from 10-5. It was fun working with techies and writers and seeing our initial writing inform a digital archive. Having opportunities to play with VR and AR. We all worked in teams and there was a series of presentations at the end of the afternoon, a constant flow of refreshments and lunch thrown in too.

I love opportunities for writing beyond the page and stage, it was a great experience to be part of and the last mark of this year’s Room 204 cohort.

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I followed my hour bus journey home with a power nap which meant I missed the first half of Earth Day. I made it to Worcester just after 8 PM which isn’t bad considering I got in after 6PM, had a power nap, prepared my poems including one written especially for this year’s Earth Hour Event and one I wrote on the bus journey in the morning, filled the car with petrol and made it to Worcester (can take up to 45 minutes).

Earth Hour was a brilliant event, as always. Organised by Martin Driscoll and in Support of WWF and Earth Hour. It was held at Cafe Bliss and the food (which was included in the ticket) was exceptional. Traditional Belize. Amazing, I can taste it now over a week later writing this blogpost!

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The Final Week 

Was mainly work. I didn’t get the writing done I had scheduled. I missed all of my end of month targets, I could kick myself… but I am choosing to go easy on myself. I have had a full-on month and do not want to submit substandard work for the sake of ticking off a deadline. There will be writing time in the future and until then I am writing bare bones and noting ideas.

I missed the 8th Birthday at 42, as I had been to the ROH Ballet the night before with mum *a Christmas gift from Mr G. We both had a thoroughly enjoyable evening but with a full week of work, I arrived home exhausted on the Wednesday and was asleep by 8:30 pm.

I managed some work on the Art Poetry PoArtry Project for Ledbury, Molly Bythell (my partnered artist) and I have started laying out groundwork for our collaboration after exchanging artworks/poems. Her painting inspired by my poem (published by Silver Birch Press Me In A Hat series)

hat-cover2 has been added to her website and I am currently scaffolding a poem based on her work ‘Flower Gel’.

I also had communication with the Festival team in Perth, Australia. My trip is in planning stages and I am excited to find out more about the festival programme. I know I am able to attend as much as I can manage.

Hopefully will be fully over jet lag during the pre-festival. Last time I went over (2005) my jet lag there was almost non-existent – cancelled out by adrenaline. It was coming home I faltered. I was talking to my friend who did the airport run and just fell asleep on my rucksack mid sentence and on the lounge floor. I do have a 20 hour lay over, so hoping that will help the lag if I play on GMT/UK time.

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Then I had the Easter weekend off with Mr G. to catch up with family, enjoy the warmth of our house – new boiler fitted this week after 3 months without heat or running hot water! Glad to be back in the 21st Century with that one.

I have an exhibition to organise that I am a week behind on, due to working.

In April aside from NaPoWriMo (now GloPoWriMo) – I have the Special Edition Contour magazine to edit and compile for the ATOTC Transatlantic Poetry Project, I may have a talking paper interested in some work on that and have future plans for performance and publication. It has been my main project as WPL and has been a steep learning curve tinged with fun!

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I am also getting a smaller European project off the ground with new poetry partners between Twin Towns next month. Our Suffragette Collection will also go live. The rest of the month is a packed schedule of  workshops, festivals and performances.

 

So I took a very deep breath over the holiday weekend and have plenty of chocolate eggs in reserve.

Oh, and I am going back to work full-time, a temporary measure to cover summer living (as there are 3 months a year I don’t earn any money) and this year had a record 10 days over a 3 month period, so this just plugs the first term being so bad.

Onward!

 

Chapel Lates Cheltenham

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Chapel arts

I thoroughly enjoyed this event organised by Anna Saunders as part of Cheltenham Music Festival. I liked the idea of starting late, it certainly makes arriving on time easier!

Chapel Arts is an amazing renovated Baptist Chapel. The gallery space has been organised flexibly to allow for various events. chapel-arts-cheltenham-logo

Arriving early gave me a chance to have a good look around.

The space was set up perfectly for Poetry and complete with pews. The tables had fairy lights in vases, there was a bar and plenty of seating.

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There was a good number of people who turned up for this FREE night of poetic entertainment and I daresay for the Headliners: Tyler Keevil and Bohdan Piasecki. I know that Bohdan does not perform as often as anyone would like him too (although he performs internationally & at Festivals), when there is a rare chance to enjoy the man in action it causes quite a stir. Having missed his final Hit the Ode as MC for Apples & Snakes, it was good to catch up.

 

Cheltenham-Music-Festival-1Tyler Keevil started the evening. Tyler Keevil is a novelist, screenwriter, and short story writer from Vancouver, Canada.  He is the author of three award-winning books: FireballThe Drive, and Burrard Inlet.

I know that performing at Spoken Word events falls slightly outside of his comfort zone, but anyone not privy to this would never have guessed. It is hard reading lengthy extracts and flash fiction, I have tried it! It was a captivating set and I could have listened for longer. Check out his website in related links.

There were lots of booked Open Mic-ers, the standard was high (which did not surprise me having attended the Cheltenham Poetry Festival and other events in the town), I know this to be a place of talent. We all missed the memo about it being a music themed evening, had I been on later I may have changed my set. There is one poem in Fragile Houses that I rarely perform which is really about something other than music but is all about music above the sub-text.

However, I had timed my set and knowing there were a number of readers was hesitant to make changes. My final poem fitted the theme and once I realised that none of us had realised there was a theme, I felt better.

Other performers included: Annie Ellis, Belinda Rimmer, John G., Dan Cooper, Neil Richards, Peter McDade, James Cornish in the first half.

I took the photos on my camera until the batteries let me down and will add these when I have uploaded them.

Poems which have stayed with me include Annie’s Young Deer poem, Belinda’s poem about the news story teenage boys protest about No Shorts policy by wearing skirts*, John performed an incredibly moving poem about carers, ‘Bricks’, Dan was unique with a mix between song lyrics and styles ‘I Hate Sunday Nights’ was amusing and entertaining, Neil performed his Grenfell poem and delivered a powerful set, Peter’s translated vocabulary super model poem hit all the funny buttons – he likes playing with language and dialect/ accents, I also enjoyed his ‘Everything is a Festival in Cheltenham’ – made more amusing by the fact that we were part of the Music Festival organised by Anna who is the founder and Leader of the Poetry Festival. James

James Cornish

James completed the first half opening with the confession he had consumed an espresso, red wine and gin to calm his pre-performance nerves AND he still managed to get all the words out! I remember the lines… ‘It’s all gone a bit Spike Milligan… what are you going to do now? Aerobics?’ his work was suitably dark.

After the interval we heard a set from Willis the Poet (a.k.a Rick Sanders) followed by the next Headliner, Bohdan Piasecki.

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Rick Sanders/ Willis the Poet

I always enjoy Rick’s sets and delight in a new audience discovering the humour bound in his collection of notebooks. Especially his fake commissions, an idea I like to remember as being conceived at Wolverhampton Arts Festival in my very presence! His Cheltenham SPAR poem deserves a mention too.

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Bohdan’s set was incredibly moving and sparked lots of ideas that I needed to scribble into my notebook. He is a dynamic performer who plays with language and manages to stretch emotions. Nursing our hearts with his gentle humour between poems. Grounding us once more.

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Bohdan Piasecki

Bohdan Piasecki is a poet from Poland based in Birmingham. A committed performer, he has taken his poems to venues ranging from the upstairs room in an Eastbourne pub to the main stage of the Birmingham Rep, from an underground Tokyo club to a tramway in Paris, from a bookshop in Beijing to an airfield in Germany, from niche podcasts to BBC Radio 3 and 4. In the UK, he regularly features at the country’s most exciting spoken word nights, festivals, and readings. He enjoys the creative chaos of big field festivals just as much as the composed concentration of literary events.

He’s completed three international tours (with stops in over twenty countries and counting); working with the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project to engage people living with dementia; devising and delivering Palimpsest City, an ACE-funded live/digital spoken word show; and writing for the Spalding Suite dance/theatre/basketball crossover show produced by Fuel.

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Bohdan founded the first poetry slam in Poland before moving to the UK to get a doctorate in poetry translation theory. He works as a Lead Tutor for the Roundhouse Poetry Collective in London and Bellows Poetry Collective in Birmingham. Bohdan worked as Director of Education on the Spoken Word in Education MA course at Goldsmiths University, and since 2012 has been a regular Visiting Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham. He also holds the post of Midlands Producer for Apples and Snakes, England’s leading spoken word organisation.

A busy man who has a lot of time for performers.

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Chris Hemmingway

The evening was concluded with a few more open mic-ers: Chris Hemmingway, Fran Smith, Jonny Precious, Rod Griffiths and finished with Chloe the Storyteller outside the chapel in the graveyard.

Fran Smith

Fran Smith

Chris performed his political Gove Cam poem, Fran is a healer and she treated us to some poetry spiritual in nature, Jonny performed a moving poem about a letter sent home from a soldier

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Jonny Precious

and Rod performed an amusing story about a serial killer. The punchline of which recently resurfaced in my head.

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Rod Griffiths

Chloe the Storyteller was dramatic, her story was spooky… chilling in fact, which set me up for the drive home alone!

Thanks, Anna for such a fantastic evening!

x anna

Anna Saunders


RELATED LINKS:

http://www.tylerkeevil.com/

http://www.thechapelarts.com/

* https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/jun/22/teenage-boys-wear-skirts-to-school-protest-no-shorts-uniform-policy