During my time as worcestershire Poet Laureate I created Contour – A Poetry Magazine. The launch of this issue was hoped to be our final post for INKSPILL 2018*. Here I was to invite you to curl up with a warm drink and experience the world of poetry and all things poetical in the latest issue of CONTOUR.
*However, the issue is not ready to go live (in case you missed the post I have had an operation) and this has set me back/time online not possible etc. This issue will go live very soon and I will post on the blog to promote it when it does.
Until then I can share some news and the previous issues of Contour for you to enjoy.
My Laureateship ended in June 2018 but I have decided to continue with Contour.
It will now be an annual publication released as the final event of INKSPILL weekend. Submissions will open in July 2019, keep your eye on A Writers Fountain for more details.
SPECIAL EDITION ISSUE 3 A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Transatlantic Poetry Project as featured in Poetry Society Poetry News.
The end of the year has rolled around fast this year. I feel like my feet have hardly hit the ground! There are so many highlights to 2017, I am gifting them a separate blog post!
I promised myself I would wind poeting down a little in December, especially with Christmas preparations and a house to sort. Plus I have not spent much time with family & friends this year. Now is the perfect time to reconnect. It didn’t quite work out this way, as you can imagine…
The end of November was busy and tiring, so I spent most of my writing day (1st December) resting and completing necessary admin tasks: I completed my next Reader in Residence activity – compiling a list of 12 Reading Challenges for 2018 for Rugby Library users, wrote a blog review for my Writing A Book Review Workshop and booked a repeat of this session for February 2018.
I continued to work on applications, wrote a few new poems and opened Contour submissions. I got creative with cover design and started prepping the layout (issue 1 took about 4 days to master)!
Contour – the WPL digital magazine is open for the next round of submissions – February Issue.
The weekend was just as busy with was a family birthday celebration, an editing group in Cheltenham, the Victorian Christmas Fayre with Mr G. and a trip to Walsall for Yes We Cant with Elvis Mcgonagall, who I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing since 2014! Long overdue. It was a fantastic night, you can read all about it here. (LINK to follow)
Monday Mr G. had a rare day off booked so we accomplished some work around the house.
Tuesday I was back to poeting and a fabulous new Spoken Word event created by Charley Barnes in Worcester, it was a good mix of poetry, spoken word and story. Polly Stretton was the delightful headliner with an assured set of eclectic mix of her work. A warm, exciting atmosphere, a good turn out and a lovely venue. Perfect. Delighted there will be more.
Wednesday saw a workshop in Stratford which will hopefully lead to something else in January and definitely gave me two working poems which would both be suitable for my next writery idea. I thoroughly enjoy this group and the workshops always deliver some new work for me. I had planned to go to Permission to Speak in the evening, The Black Country Anthology compiled by Emma Purshouse/Offa Press was being compiled and I was really looking forward to several of the billed performers and Roy McFarlane was headlining.
By the time I got home it was a strain to keep my eyes open and with a fully booked end of week ahead (radio, work, gig, work, stanza, book launch) I felt that I needed to give myself recovery time. Which I did… it may have taken 4 years, but my ‘sensible’ is developing. I did some prep for the Radio and had an early night.
If I forget the journey to the train station, my Thursday was an exceptional one. Helen Calcutt asked me to do Brum Radio back in 2016, we were tried to make a booking which became impossible as I was contracted to work on the days of recordings. Fast forward a few presenters and Rick Sanders has taken on the role of host. He asked me to be a guest a while back and has been busily creative matching poets up together for his shows. Today was the day. It was great fun and I have given the experience a blog post. Read all about it here. (Link to follow)
Then after getting home I went back to Birmingham – well as far in as Selly Oak for Grizzly Pear. This night usually clashes with SpeakEasy so it took me about 3 years to make it to one and I had not made it back since. At the Verve Launch back in November I discovered Liz Berry would be headlining and immediately put the date in my diary. Unfortunately, it still clashed with a Worcester event, this time Uncorked at Bottles with Bethany (now Beff) Slim, Nick Lovell & Mike Alma headlining. I did go to Uncorked last month, so although I was sad to miss these 3 in headline spots I know I can hear them regularly on the circuit. I am glad to know Holly is better and back in her hosting role. I am sure I will get to hear all about this night soon.
Having already made the commitment to go, I was delighted to discover Jenna Clake and Susannah Dickey on the same bill. It was tremendous to see the Shropshire contingency out in full force too as well as catching up with local poetry friends. They also had a Haiku Poetry Slam and I came 2nd. The prize was a Verve Festival Workshop – delighted! I have booked 2 already but the chance to do a 3rd, epic! I have written an entire blog here. (Link to follow)
Friday – a day of snow and an evening of poetry, except by the time I was home I knew my mind was too tired to critique poetry so I missed our Christmas Stanza, I hate missing Stanza, but I also dislike it when I am too tired to participate properly and feel like I cannot be of assistance to others. It was the right decision as I fell asleep at 7 PM. I also wanted to be fresh for Claire Walker’s Book Launch the following evening. I think I was suffering after only managing 5 hours sleep after Grizzly Pear and a day of work in the only school that didn’t close for snow!
Saturday saw the much anticipated Book Launch of ‘Somewhere Between Rose & Black’ by Claire Walker, her 2nd V. Press pamphlet.
The Book has already been on sale and I resisted the urge to buy/pre-order my copy. I like to support the launches and buy one on the sizzle of the evening.
Tuesday 12th December was the Michael Marks Awards with V. Press nominated for the Publishers Prize.
There was a Room 204 party organised in Birmingham, which I would have loved to go to. This was actually cancelled due to the snow.
Thursday SpeakEasy in Worcester, saw Sharon Carr Headline.
Saturday was my last WWM Spark Writers Group for the year. It was also the end of Poetry Events for me before a Christmas Break. Work finished too… not that there has been a lot this term, I can count the days I have had on both hands and still have fingers left over!
I plan to spend my Christmas break preparing for an International Festival, workshops and getting some work done (writing), as well as sorting out the house.
I did indeed manage a fortnight break from all things writing with the exception of organising The Tale of Two Cities, a Poet Laureate Transatlantic Poetry Project.
I read Cherry Pie – Holly McNish’s debut collection. I read it back in 2014 when I went to Wenlock and watched her perform for the first time. I saw her perform twice this year, once at The Hive in Worcester and once at the Town Hall in Birmingham. Love her. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book again. I read a couple of novels I borrowed from the library and started my Christmas read. For the past few years I have chosen a Christmas themed novel for the holidays. This one had all the promises of chick lit… but before the end of the first few chapters I found myself in a whole world of serious issues. About as unchristmassy as you can get! A good read though.
I sent a few poems to Angela France for an event that takes place in January, where I hope to read my poems and set about updating blog posts so when the December Review goes live (later today) there can be active links.
I also had to schedule meetings for early January with regards for several poet laureate events which will all take place before March.
It is hard to believe that I have less than 6 months left in this position! Although a lot of writing time and preparing for the International Festival is set in place post laureateship.
My desk had an annual clean up as we needed the table for Christmas Day! The laptop had a 10 day rest.
Now I am doing the final family visits before New Year and getting organised for a smooth launch into 2018.
Just before we reach the halfway point of November I thought I would get my head down and tell you about last month!
October was such a whirlwind month. An abundant welcome into the winter and came with the realisation that I have not submitted anything for 5 months (I have organised enough WPL events to fill 100 pages of my notebook) and written more commissioned poems than I can count on all my fingers and toes… but this is something I want to get back to before the end of the year. So now I will find some extra time to carve out, December is looking good!
I wanted to go to Kim Moore’s workshop at Buzzwords, but I didn’t get back from my stint in London at the Poetry Book Fair/Free Verse in time. Well technically, I could have detoured to Cheltenham in time but energy levels were so long I didn’t think I would manage the late drive home or even stay awake for writing and my brain was as tired as my body. It was amazing according to everyone who was there and having taken her workshop at the Verve Festival in February, I don’t doubt it!
I had my Adam Speaks Treehouse poem accepted for the NT project at Croome Court. With NPD, Credo and then hot-footing down South I had forgotten the deadline on this writing, which was already tight. This was the first poem I was forced to send on my phone, thank goodness it was a submission in the body of an email. I had to send it from Free Verse and it was a definite last minute submission. Fortunately, I didn’t look too rude doing so as the hall was packed with poets live tweeting.
I had a school workshop planned which sadly had to be postponed, I look forward to this in 2018 although I expect to change my plans to fit the curriculum topics in the Spring Term.
Then I went down to Swindon for the Poetry Festival, now in it’s 5th year (and my 3rd). I cannot express how much I love this festival. This was my first year of stewarding, generally I buy festival passes or lots of events tickets and arrive as a punter, network, drink and absorb poetry into my very core. I knew working on the team would make this experience completely different but I also knew it was a solid team to be part of and saw volunteering as the biggest thank you I could give.
I was also booked to perform V Formation with fellow V. Press Poets Stephen Daniels and Gram Joel Davies (also notably on the team).
Some of the team and performers at the opening event POEMS ALOUD Artsite, Number Nine Gallery, Theatre Square, Swindon
V FORMATION – POETS of V. PRESSRJ Museum Tent-Palace
A celebration of three new and exciting voices in British poetry: Stephen Daniels, Gram Joel Davies and Nina Lewis.
Stephen Daniels is the editor of Amaryllis Poetry and Strange Poetry websites. His debut pamphlet Tell Mistakes I Love Them was published in 2017 by V. Press. Gram Joel Davies lives in Devon and his pamphlet, Bolt Down This Earth was V. Press’ Forward Prize nominee for 2017. Nina Lewis is Worcestershire Poet Laureate and her debut pamphlet Fragile Houses was published by V. Press in 2016.
Our readings were on the 1st night and the event went well, was well attended and people were still talking about it a few days later.
Swindon Poetry Festival needs a blog post and I will write a full review as soon as I can find time to do so. Another case of better late than never!
Highlights in brief:
WORKSHOP: The Dynamic Poem Holiday InnWith Daljit Nagra
Poems can sometimes seem flat and lack vigour, they can drift along in a dreamy mood without any conviction. Daljit will explore with examples from contemporary poetry how to put the fizz back into a poem. Participants should expect to have attempted at least one new lively poem!
READINGS RJ Museum Tent-Palace
Poke into the poetry box! Treasures of the heart, inca-named stardust, and various severed body parts! An hour of humour and water with Sue Rose, Emma Simon and Simon Williams.
Emma Simon won the Prole Laureate poetry competition in 2013 and loss, love & severed body parts scatter through her first collection Dragonish (The Emma Press). Simon Williams latest collection, Inti, was published in July. Sue Rose is the author of three poetry collections. Heart Archives was published by Hercules Editions in 2014.
POETS & PUBLISHERSRJ Museum Tent-Palace
Discussions led by poet Carrie Etter with two prominent poetry editors, Amy Wack and Mary Jean Chan. Come and join a discussion about what it takes to get published.
Carrie Etter is a Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Her most recent collection, Imagined Sons (Seren, 2014), was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award in New Work in Poetry by The Poetry Society.
Since 1990, American expatriate Amy Wack has edited Seren Books’ multi-prizewinning poetry list. Her own poems have appeared in various journals, most recently a 12-part poem inspired by feral cats in Spain in Long Poem Magazine.
Mary Jean Chan, from Hong Kong, is shortlisted for the 2017 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem and is Co-Editor at Oxford Poetry. Her work has been published in The Poetry Review, Ambit, The Rialto, The London Magazine, Callaloo Journal.
WORKSHOP: Call and Response Sun Inn With Rishi Dastidar
We’ve all been to workshops where we’ve been inspired by other poems, maybe visual art too, and then written in response to them. So what happens when we use pop songs instead? That’s the simple premise behind ‘Call and Response’, where some great music will hopefully provide great inspiration for writing poems. Just bring some paper, pencils – and your ears.
Rishi Dastidar is a fellow of The Complete Works, a consulting editor at The Rialto magazine, a member of the Malika’s Poetry Kitchen collective. His debut collection, Ticker-tape, is published by Nine Arches Press.
During the festival I missed the beginning of Birmingham Literature Festival and a meeting with the poets involved in the Elgar Poetry Project.
Swindon Poetry Festival and the highlights of the weekend. An amazing end to the festival was Monday morning, breakfast with Daljit and then Breakfast and Poetry over at the Tent Palace as our festival finale.
I got back on Monday afternoon and Monday evening was straight out to open mic at Licensed to Rhyme in the new venue Cafe Morso, Barnt Green.
As WPL I was busy gathering submissions for World Mental Health Day – as Mental Health Week started when I was in Swindon and I had been hit by the dreaded Swindon Lurgy! Which meant I missed most of the events at Birmingham Literature Festival that I planned to go to!
I was also organising the Hanbury Hall Project for poets to go and write about artwork displayed in the Long Gallery by DAN. The Gallery opened on the 10th and the exhibition ran until the 29th and they had over 3300 visitors, only 15 of which were poets!
Not as WPL but as a poet I was also busy preparing INKSPILL – our online writing retreat.
I missed tons of events being ill (proper ill with blankets).
I made it back to the edge of health in time to perform as WPL at the SpeakEasy event for Mental Health Day at Cafe Bliss, this is a wonderful annual event which brings together speakers from a variety of Mental Health and Wellbeing backgrounds, agencies such as The Samaritans and this year The Shaw Trust and of course local poets.
It was a very moving experience and a good afternoon. I also received submissions for the World Mental Health Day Anthology from participants. I love it when the WPL projects reach local people through events and radio broadcasts. I made the decision to keep the submission open on the Mental Health collection for the duration of my tenure. We raise awareness of it a few times a year through these calendar events, but actually it is everyday living for 1 in 4 (official statistics were 1 in 5 but recent NHS figures show 1 in 4).
The following day after dragging myself around a D.I.Y store with Mr G. I diagnosed myself healthy enough to venture into Birmingham to catch Joe Cook and Hollie McNish at the Town Hall. This is the 2nd time this year I have seen Hollie and she was as wonderful as ever. It was also the 2nd time this year I gave up on queuing to meet her. I met her several times in 2015 and I know I will get my new books signed one day!
I had planned to get to Wellington Festival, but I still wasn’t 100% well and also my car was slightly damaged over the weekend.
I made it to Hanbury Hall and was able to meet up with the Cheltenham contingency of poets (well, some of them). I took plenty of photos and notes and ended up writing 8 poems – 6 of which will make it public.
On the 18th I was back in Birmingham for Stablemates at Waterstones. Jill Abram always sends me an invite to these London events, so I could hardly refuse when she brought it to the Midlands. It was a fantastic night. I really felt uplifted by the end of it. It was also a chance to finally meet and watch Rosie Garland who I have heard so much about. I got to see Jackie Hagan again (last time I saw her was at Hit the Ode) and listening to Henry Normal was a pleasure, I love the fact his is Oscar nominated and a BAFTA winner and has yet returned to his first love of poetry.
I started to promote my first WPL event for children, which had been in the pipeline for a while. The WLF team produce a Halloween Event for LITtleFest at St.John’s library which along with the usual storytelling, pumpkin carving and treats I included a Writing Workshop for 5 – 9+ years old.
I also had a call out for Halloween Poem Submissions which needed a push.
I spent the tail end of the week working on the Elgar Poetry commission (WPL).
I had my 2nd writing meeting with Spark Young Writers at The Hive, we had a go at our own spooky theme and also had the new WWM Operations Assistant, Heddwen Creaney come to visit our group.
I spent 4 days busily researching Elgar and completing 14 new poems for the event in November.
I spent some admin time organising festival events for 2018.
I worked on my WMRN role as Reader in Residence for Rugby Library organising next month’s Review Writing Workshop.
I had my WPL spot on BBC Hereford & Worcester with Tammy Gooding, talked about the Elgar Project and Mental Health. I shared my poem ‘First Steps’ from Fragile Houses.
In the evening I enjoyed dressing up for Halloween (I looked like a Gothic Librarian – but what I wanted was Suz Winspear our first Goth Poet Laureate) and went to 42. It was rather cramped as we were in the Lunar Bar upstairs and it was a great turn out for the night. It also gave me a chance to promote the Halloween submission call too.
I missed Jenna Clake’s Book Launch of ‘Fortune Cookie’ in Birmingham, which I was gutted about but I also asleep by the time it started. So the right call was made!
We had a Stanza meeting and then it was Week 5!
INKSPILL of course, which needs no introduction around here… our 5th annual online writing retreat – it is mad to think we have been going for as long as Swindon Poetry Festival! This year’s Guest Poets were Antony Owen & Stephen Daniels, both fellow V. Press poets, although I hadn’t realised that until after the booking.
It was a massively successful and fun weekend. Take a look at the programme page if you missed it and you should be able to navigate through from there using the menu tools on screen.
It was also the Halloween Event at the library – where my workshop was attended by children aged 4 to 12, all enjoyed themselves and watched me, dressed as a witch attempting to fly around the room. They did ask why my face wasn’t green and I told them all about the family tea party I was going to afterwards.
It was fun and the most exhausting WPL event yet!
On Sunday I spent a long time creating the first issue of the WPL Magazine Contour– submissions all about Place/Worcestershire closed at the end of August and since then I have been sifting through work. Fortunately during some local research I discovered Philip Halling and we were able to use his images throughout the magazine with a few additions from local poets.
The end of the DAN Exhibition at Hanbury Hall was marked with a closing celebration on the 30th which Polly Stretton was invited to read her poem ‘Curves’ at. Polly won a competition created by Peter Hawkins (Chair) to find a poem for the closing of the exhibition. I sneaked one of mine in as WPL/Organiser of the poetry part of the project.
The artist for my piece was there, Stephen Evans and I am delighted that he will be using my work alongside his painting in his next exhibition in December.
I successfully completed a WPL Productions Poetry Film to show off the HalloweenPoetry Submissions and added some prose as a one off Poet Laureate special to the blog.