Have you ever flipped to the index of a book and found it super interesting? Well, I have (yes, I live an exciting life!) For example, the other day I pulled from my shelf a copy of on old book that excerpts parts of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s journals. I took a look at the index, and found the following entry under “Man”:
fails to attain perfection, 46; can take advantage of any quality within him, 46; his plot of ground, 46; his use, 52, 56; not to be trusted with too much power, 55; should not be too conscientious, 58; occult relationship between animals and, 75; God in, 79, 86; not looked upon as an animal, 80; gains courage by going much alone, 81; the finished, 89; and woman, distinctive marks of, 109; reliance in the moral constitution of, 124; the infinitude of the private, 151; and men, 217; should compare advantageously with a river, 258.
That’s a poem, right there!
Today, I challenge you to write your own index poem. You could start with found language from an actual index, or you could invent an index, somewhat in the style of this poem by Kell Connor. Happy writing!
I am delighted to be part of today’s featured Poetry Resource! Thanks to Maureen Thorson for including my debut chapbook (2016). After a sit-down-happy-dance I went to read the featured poem Yellow Celosia of Hope by Jacquelyn Markham.
I chose a medical book (and swiftly regretted it). I messed around with part of the index, a quarter of the A entries < which might be the title this poem is searching for. The poem needs work but I like the concept.
Today, our featured participant is color me in cyanide and cherry . . ., where the liminal prompt for Day 4 led to a wonderfuly dreamy-spooky poem, and taught me a new word, too!
Our featured reading is a live event that will take place tomorrow, April 6, at 8 p.m. eastern daylight time. The poets Mairead Case, Kenyatta Rogers, Erika Hodges, and Israel Solis, Jr will all be reading as part of the Open Door Series, sponsored by the Poetry Foundation.
And now for our prompt. I call this one “The Shapes a Bright Container Can Contain,” after this poem by Theodore Roethke.
This prompt challenges you to find a poem, and then write a new poem that has the shape of the original, and in which every line starts with the first letter of the corresponding line in the original poem… Any poem will do as a jumping-off point, but if you’re having trouble finding one, perhaps you might consider Mary Szybist’s “We Think We Do Not Have Medieval Eyes” or for something shorter, Natalie Shapero’s “Pennsylvania.”
Yesterday I spent some extra time with NaPo – inspired by the featured participant poem, I wrote a poem from the 6 words drawn from the Universal Deck prompt (Day 3), which involved some planetary research – again this is a theme I explored in poetry a few years ago so felt like familiar territory. The poem explores the disconnect between creative and scientific and stories we believe. It was surprising – as any poem resulting from the deck prompt is bound to be.
I read the featured poem Waldeinsamkeit, this is the chosen image. An incredible, wondrous poem grew from this prompt.
Waldeinsamkeit – I knew this was a German word, but haven’t studied the language since I was a teenager, when I looked up the meaning I discovered it loosely translates as: solitude of the forest/ the feeling of being alone in the woods. Wald (“forest”) + Einsamkeit (“loneliness”), which I think you get from the poem anyway but it does put the forest ensemble in context.
When I read this poem I was struck by many lines:
handing out tea-cups of air to a stuffed forest ensemble seated around the table – You watch but do not drink, not even of the sunlight
will not breach through my eyes that reach with the hunger of the treetops,
the nightbound places of my roots;
I was absorbed into this poem of body and wood, of devil and soil, of observation and being watched (or not). I had a wander around the blog and read other poems by Mirjana M, Inalman.
I often use the Poetry Foundation website, I hope to attend this reading series but it is 1-2AM BST and I am in a late night event which finishes at 1 AM already and in a month when I was attempting to cool the number of readings I attend. The laptop is on its last legs and I have work to finish. It is in the diary but may be missed. I discovered the NaPo reading from yesterday was also LIVE/available to watch on You Tube, so maybe the PF one will be too, although looking at their You Tube channel there is no evidence of this.
When I read today’s prompt I felt my mind twist with the implication for the resulting work. I was happy to try something I haven’t done before. I never did the ‘mimic’ poem/poet stage as a developing writer and although prompts like this can throw up some incredibly original work I worry about the link to the original and the closeness of forgery. I guess if the poem I create is ever submitted I would just cite ‘After…’ and the original source. I know the copyright laws/infringement vary greatly between the US and UK. I did a lot of research when I was editing the Transatlantic Anthology for the A Tale of Two Cities project, from which many poets have gone on to publish their work, which is a joy. (Another anthology of Worcestershire poetry ‘The Poetry of Worcestershire’, published by Offa’s Press featured a great many poems local poets had written during my Worcestershire Poet Laureate projects too.) Spreading the poetry love!
As I was unsure about creating from an already created source, I decided to use one of the referenced poems (which probably means there will be millions of almost couplet poems starting with O-W-I-I-W lines), but never-mind, that is the fun of Napo, just to play and create. We are not writing for publication right now.
For all the years I have done this writing month I have a handful of decent/reworked/edited/workshopped Napo poems in print, there are a few in both my own collections Fragile Houses (2016) and Patience (2019) as well as various magazines and anthologies. But right now, if you are feeling like me… just breathe and DIVE IN!
When I extracted Natalie Shapero’s “Pennsylvania” the first thing I noticed was the amount of repeated letters, I know there are differences between UK and US poetry too and was unsure whether this would result in a good poem at first. But remember rules can always be broken and already I feel this ‘mimic form prompt’ will possibly be rendered down to create a different end-poem, I got down to the writing anyway. After all, NaPo isn’t about worrying whether the writing is any good and even our rubbish writes take us somewhere.
Do not be afraid and if a prompt scares you that can be a GOOD thing, NaPo for me is all about writing poems which would not otherwise have been written.
Another tip would be: Choose a poem you aren’t familiar with, don’t read it. Strip it for the parts needed to complete this prompt – write and only when finished read the original poem. Then you know for sure you have copied nothing but the initial letters and form. (Number of stanzas, lines etc.).
Mimicry is actually a recognised part of writing development it appears in many workshops and academic classes. Remind yourself you are not doing anything wrong here.
The start of my creation looked like this.
It took a surprisingly long time to create a poem, mainly because the idea forms of what it is you want to say and then you have to find a word starting with a specific letter to fit that, but this is the gold dust of this prompt – by following the constraints of the rule you finish with a poem worded in a way you wouldn’t naturally have written it.
I didn’t worry too much about the ten syllable counts, or matching line lengths to the original, I just wrote what felt right.
After I finished I read the original and copied and pasted the poems side by side. Several of my lines were longer in places so I changed the size of the font to make them carry the couplet form, (obviously not necessary when just looking at my poem alone). I was intrigued to find that I started with the idea of the world still turning, carrying on without you and the original Natalie is talking of death and new life, the circle of life;
the whole of the globe turning
off for a moment, then shuddering
back, the same as it was,
Covering the same concept because when you are ill in hospital or cut off by grief you feel this sense of no longer being part of the world, and yet everything around you carries on despite your world being forever changed. Other than that the poems are (I am happy to say) completely different. And the common ground is a universal experience which has been written about for hundreds/thousands of years. My troublesome title came right at the end, I had a selection of P words, but Prognosis only entered my head as I was typing the penultimate couplet.
An extract from Prognosis:
encode the hours between meds and cups of tea.
Accept this bed, this broken body–
prophesize your release.
I knew of Natalie Shapero, but had not read this particular poem. It sounds like a spectacular collection, read about it here:
Back in April, I performed at Cheltenham Poetry Festival. I was asked to do Cheltenham PF in 2016 but I was too shy about the ‘how to’ and waited on emails, leaving it too late to secure the booking for the 2017 Festival. So I had the pleasure of being in the 2018 Programme instead. Booked way in advance (as these things are), I was gutted when an email from Jill Abram popped up in the inbox asking me to be part of the V.Press Stablemates in London, and of all the dates – YES, you guessed it – 26th April when I was already booked for Cheltenham. Clashes. They will be the undoing of me!
Still, I was very excited to be part of CPF and very much looked forward to it for months.
I arrived at Smokey Joe’s in time to see the INDIGO DREAMS SHOWCASE and get a pre-launch preview of Anna’s new collection (her 5th) ‘Ghosting for Beginners’.
NINA LEWIS – FRAGILE HOUSES
PLUS PETER MCDADE, GUESTS AND OPEN MIC
9-10.30 pm, Smokey Joe’s ‘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 commended 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.
I was incredibly nervous, but had worked on a perfect story arc set and despite a mass exodus to the bar in between events, people came back. I thoroughly enjoyed getting Fragile Houses to new ears and it was a pleasure to be back in the venue reading. There were a few last minute additions to the night, poetry from another IDP poet- Ben Ray, who joined Peter & I with a set of poetry before the open mic.
It was a wonderful evening of poetry and afterwards, on a complete high I joined Neil Richards (who performed in the first event of the evening, which I was sadly stuck in traffic for) and Ruth Williams in a pub where we were joined by Elvis!
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:
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.
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.
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’.
This month seems to have disappeared in a flash, looking at events listings it is no wonder. The thing I have been coming to terms with this month is missing events either because of clashing dates or lack of energy/needing some gaps in my schedule. It is something every artist has to overcome at some point, just wishing there was a fast cure. If I am really busy I tend not to look at the events calendars on social media as I know they will show places I want to be. Ignorance is bliss and all that.
My 2014 Poetry Diary
The desk In Tray is filled with admin tasks I need to take a firm hold over, the house needs sorting out (still), the diary is filling up and my weekly schedule is brimming. The mortgage payments are coming from savings as there is no paid work this early in the term, I have been lucky in recent years to have had work by now. My agent is on secondment, so I keep calling the office in vague hope… it will come but probably when I am at Swindon Poetry Festival. Perhaps it is a godsend as there is no way I could manage the poetry workload and a day job!
I have decided not to worry, repeat the mantra every freelancer knows, ‘money will come’ and just get stuck into my projects and plans.
This month planning meetings were initiated in Warwick & Rugby for my work with Warwickshire Libraries – Reader in Residence through WMRN. I was so excited when Roz Goddard approached me to apply in the summer. I spent a long time on the application and just kept my fingers crossed for a successful bid. I follow in some mighty footsteps created by Readers in Residence: Jean Atkin, Andy Killeen (2014) and Deborah Alma (2015).
Since August I have completed hours of research and two planning meetings with library staff in Warwick and Rugby. Now I have the schedule and an idea of what is required for my residency which will officially start in November and run until March.
I also facilitated my first adult workshops in over 12 years. Workshops are something I have wanted to get back into for a long time. I just needed the springboard and it takes years to construct a new one! It was an absolute delight and feedback has been positive. I started planning my WPL workshops back in June and met up with the venues Event Manager back in July. The Sculpture Trail (which was the base stimuli for my Poetry Workshop) arrived on site late August and was open to the public on the 25th August. I went to the grand opening at the Jinney Ring and took plenty of notes and some photos. I then busily planned the workshop and tested the material out on myself.
This month I was contacted by several people for commissioned work and booked performances.
There were only 3 days in this week. I had hoped to make it across to Birmingham for Case Bailey’s Book Launch (he crowd funded this venture earlier in the year) and also to get back to Walsall for ‘Yes We Cant’* to see Gerry Potter who I discovered for the first time in January at Wolverhampton Arts Festival. Neither plan worked as an eventful life weekend meant I couldn’t manage the travel.
*as in brick.
Term started back (without me) but I started back the same day. I added a second date to the Jinney Ring Poetry Workshops, tickets for the first one SOLD OUT by the end of August.
I started to organise INKSPILL (my online writing retreat) hosted on this blog for FREE in October.
I had my first WMRN Reader in Residence meeting in Warwick with a team of Librarians to plan what it might look like.
I went back across to Coventry in the evening for a night at the Inspire Cafe and Antony Owen’s book launch of The Nagasaki Elder.
The following morning I did my first talk as a Poet. This was part of the Second Friday Story Series facilitated by Sue Johnson at Evesham Library. This opportunity was booked back in July and it was a good morning. There are now more plans afoot for a Evesham Festival of Words Fringe Event. The other speakers were Tom Bryson, a local Crime Writer and Ashleigh Jayes.
I spent the past few weeks organising a Poetry Event for the Salt Festival. A group of poets joined me at Canal Side Studios in the Square to perform poems. This year the festival moved location to Vine’s Park, the rain was torrential and there was even a thunderstorm, the whole event was set up with foot passers in mind and there weren’t many there – however, some stayed for a while and a few poets came to watch/support us. We all had fun.
Started with food poisoning! I am not used to feeling ill now I no longer work a stressful 80 hour week. Staying under a blanket and feeling sorry for myself, watching trashy TV and not reaching my desk was quite hard. I also missed Licensed to Rhyme and a plethora of poets I hadn’t seen in ages.
I was approached to be part of a new commission. A current collaboration between a composer and a visual artist. how could I resist? It may also lead to more workshop work, which would be superb.
I met with the Chair of the International Twin Town Committee to discuss my European Poetry Project. It is wonderful to have these WPL ideas met with so much enthusiasm.
I had my third radio slot on BBC Hereford & Worcester with Tammy Gooding and read my new hometown poem ‘Not on the High Street’.
In the evening, I headlined a split set at Permission to Speak, back in it’s home venue with shiny new owners and a gorgeous new stage. Claptrap is a perfect venue for all us performers. It was lovely to be reunited with everyone.
Three things in one day meant I was certainly ready to sleep. The following day I took more bookings and in the evening I headlined as WPL at SpeakEasy. It truly was a night of passion, emotion and brilliant performers. It was noted that all four Flash Fiction Slam Champions were in the same room at the same time! It was great to see Andrew Owens again. I have missed him loads, as has everybody else. Kieran Davis gifted me a belated congratulations present – a book I cannot wait to get stuck into!
I spent Friday missing submission deadlines, planning and writing.
The weekend saw the start of a new term and a new group for Spark Young Writers – Writing West Midlands in Worcester at The Hive. Emails sent to workshop participants and last minute flapping (packing) for the Sculpture Trail Workshop.
I facilitated my first adult workshop in 12 years at the Jinney Ring Craft Centre – Sculpture & Poetry Workshop, it was a great success and now I wait in anticipation of finished poems which we plan to exhibit on site at the restaurant in November.
I researched and wrote some WW1 poetry for a commission, I have been working away on these since August, mainly reading and research. Finally the words presented themselves and I managed to write three poems for this project.
I spent time with the Contour submission pile. Contour is an online digital magazine for my tenure as Worcestershire Poet Laureate. The first issue (out next month) deals with PLACE as a theme, Worcestershire to be exact.
I had my 2nd WMRN Reader-in-Residence meeting and the first one on site at Rugby Art Gallery, Museum & Library. It was a productive meeting and now I have my schedule and remit finalised for this role. I am currently spending hours at the desk researching and preparing, I will write a Guest Blog soon and reblog it here on AWF and then I start officially at the Library in November. This residency runs until March 2018 and is something I am very much looking forward to.
I finished writing poetry for Credo – Creative Synergy – the project/performance I was asked to contribute poetry to at the end of the month.
The ‘Adam Speaks’ NT project (which completes on the 25th November) took another twist and I am busy writing for that.
We had a fabulous Poetry Society Stanza meeting and I finished the week with a Room 204 Performance event at Edmunds Brewhouse, Birmingham. A catch up with family and a reunion with college friends.
Mr G and I went to see the Black Angels. A much anticipated gig, the tickets have been pinned to the fridge for months. It has been years since we last saw them.
I performed as part of a pre-event for Birmingham Literature Festival at Waterstones. Literary Allsorts – A Room 204 showcase.
Then it was Christmas… I mean National Poetry Day. I blogged a lot, wrote some poems in the local library and went to support Voices of 1919.
The performance of this book by actors was moving and superb.
I performed in Credo-Creative Synergy, an event Liz Johnson asked me to be part of earlier this month back at Elmslie House, Malvern the night after Voices of 1919. This was an incredible project to become part of and I am grateful to Liz for approaching me to be involved. A blog post is owed.
I travelled down to London for Free Verse the Poetry Book Fair where I performed alongside Stephen Daniels in a V. Press Reading. I have been promising myself a trip to this book fair for a few years now, so to get down there and have an opportunity to perform was a double bonus. I had a fantastic day and absorbed an incredible amount of performances, readings and books!
And now for our prompt (optional, as always). Today I challenge you to take your inspiration, like our featured interviewee did in the chapbook she co-authored with Ross Gay, from the act of letter-writing. Your poem can be in the form of a letter to a person, place, or thing, or in the form of a back-and-forth correspondence.
I wrote a letter to the World, in the form of a Golden Shovel.
broken early on with boundaries,
we have time to recover, perhaps.
Carrie Etter prompted us to write a poem with 2 or 3 stresses in a line. I managed to write a very short poem about innocent children in war, Syria for example.
no future here is happy…
I also took this opportunity to revise form and meter.
Jo writes about the feeling captured in Joseph’s poem; “Stop telling the literal truth, and show us how your experience of love /bereavement / shellfish truly feels.” – Jo Bell.
Read the whole discussion and then have a think about your approach to writing, but most of all go and READ.
The Poetry School Andrew Parkes shared a sonnet prompt today. The word sonnet sends shivers to my brain, I have written some in the past. It is a form that needs careful crafting, some poets really enjoy writing in this form. I am yet to learn to love it!
Day 16: Sonnet Day
What are the basic bones of a sonnet? 14 lines and a bit of a jink two thirds of the way through? Well today’s the day to flex your formal muscles and show what the sonnet is to you. Whether you go Petrarchan, Shakespearean, Stretched or Submerged, today we want to see the perfect poetic containers of your sonnets.
If you want a little guidance, there’s some info on the sonnet here.
March felt like a funny old month. The start of the month was rocky, the usual dips and peaks were replaced with a fairly big dip, which fortunately finished mid-March, the end of the month was full of highs and gathered rollercoaster speed, positively hyperactive.
I missed out on many events I wanted to attend due to lack of time, transport and energy. My writing schedule was full and I continued to work on organising festival events as well as time spent making exciting applications. Keeping my fingers crossed.
In addition to this – we have AN EMPTY ROOM, I managed (finally) to sort the smallest bedroom which is our first redecoration project in the house Mr G and I moved into the year I returned to writing (2013). If I wasn’t writing, I kid myself that we would have finished the entire house by now. But the thing I look forward to the most is nesting new writing spaces! The room has now been empty and awaiting action for three weeks, but in that time Mr G has transformed the front garden (much to the pleasure of the neighbours) and bought a sander in preparation for the next epic challenge- actually doing the room!
V. Press collections: Career in Accompaniment by Alex Reed, Book of Bones by Kathy Gee, Fragile Housesby Nina Lewisand The Old Man in the House of Bone by David Calcutt, with illustrations from Peter Tinkler were reviewed by Sam Smith. You can read the full reviews here http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.co.uk/
We are all gutted that this event (of 2 years) has come to an end. The venue – which is one of the most amazing spaces I have had the pleasure to perform in, is closing. Rob Francis is extremely busy with writing and lecturing, maybe these things are sent by the universe as the timing seems right to free Rob up for other opportunities. He also got engaged recently, so I suspect there will be a busy non-poetry element going on in his life soon too. Fortunately I was tipped off just before the night kicked off, otherwise I would have been in floods when Rob announced it to the packed out room.
As always, it was a good night with an eclectic mix of open mics, poems, stories and extracts. It was fantastic to watch Pete in action again and I enjoyed his set immensely. Several lines have become ear-worms over the past month. I had an interesting conversation with him afterwards about poetry. You cannot help but be swept away on his passion-wave of enthusiasm.
Sadly I missed out on watching him perform again at the Artrix this week as I had a gig in Manchester the next day, work and lots of submission deadlines. If you get a chance to see him, you should grasp it for sure! ‘Keep it Lit!’
People who have read this collection rave about it – it is on my list to buy.
I spent the majority of writing time organising, I am currently organising three events for festivals which is keeping me busy.
I also had an opportunity to create work for Mental Health Awareness Week (May). Sarah Leavesley has, for several years posted poetry related to Mental Health during this week. ‘The Magnetic Diaries’ deals with these issues and last year you may remember I attended a workshop at the MAC which was part of the Magnetic Diaries Tour. Sarah mentioned back then that we could share our workshop poetry. As with lots of things at the moment it fell into the ‘to do’ pile. My main focus currently is the house, promoting Fragile Houses and organising festival events. Anyway, long story short, I did eventually manage to create a new poem from the workshop and another written especially for the blog project. More on this in May.
I had a request for a poem and spent the weekend working on editing and writing. I have found this month that I am very last minute. I discovered a submission opportunity the day before deadline (always a challenge) and more recently discovered an entire festival I had missed, a great shame as there was a workshop I would have loved to have attended.
The week I forgot to live… so many events missed. I felt the dip this week – my body/mind reacts by sleeping. I spent my writing time beavering away at schedules, organising festival events and generally needed sleep before bedtime. I did wish to be a busy poet and I guess I didn’t consider that I would need to be grown-up with scheduling or with reacting to the events I miss. Be careful what you wish for!
I missed Stirchley Speaks, Headlined by Tom McCann, Steve Pottinger was performing in Ludlow at The Poetry Lounge, I missed Howl – there was a new event in Cannock – Speaking Out Midlands, where all performers were open mic, allocated 10 minute slots. Charlotte had invited me some months ago and then word was spread on social media and it attracted a great crowd and I have read some rave reviews.
It clashed with SpeakEasy and when I discovered Adrian Mealing (who I have not seen for years) was headlining, I knew that I was going to save the car some miles. I do not regret this decision, SpeakEasy was a good night and it was lovely chatting and catching up with Adrian. Confab Cabaret with John Hegley (the last time I saw Adrian).
Suffering the dip, being in a familiar environment with people I know was preferable. I was revitalised by the end of the evening. There were lots of new faces and audience, incredibly positive for the LitFest team. Suz performed the Squid Ballroom, part of her Laureate event – more on this next month, I am one of the invited performers.
I spent Friday tying up loose ends and trying to write. I sent my poems to Rick Saunders the brainchild behind Rob’s PTS thank you gift. We (the collective at PTS) have sent writing to Rick who has printed a pamphlet (more like a book at 80 odd pages) to present to Rob on the final night – Permission to Shut Up – at the end of March. I sent my poem about the stage ‘The Secret of Scary Canary’s Stage’ and one I wrote especially for Rob all about what he has achieved with PTS and what it means to the rest of us, originally titled ‘Permission to Speak’. He should be extremely proud of his achievements and hopefully this isn’t the last we have heard from him.
I spent an entire evening planning a non-fiction session for my Spark Young Writers group (Writing West Midlands). Inspired by the Royal Society of Photographers exhibition I walked around last month I decided to do Science Journalism. The group thoroughly enjoyed themselves and I am still wiping sweat from my brow – I was worried in case any of them chose to write about the bee’s anus. Which was an amazing piece of photography and incredibly fascinating to look at. I was amazed by the talented articles that came from this session. Some great writing.
It was also the DeMontfortBook Fair in Leicester – States of Independence, not something they hosted when I lived there for 5 years. Leicester is where I broke my performance poetry seal and will always have a little bit of a special place in my heart. Sarah Leavesley was there with her V. Press bookshop, she also launched her new book – a novella published by Mantle Lane Press.
It always hurts to miss out on events, I dreamed of a busy writing life and I have one, but it means that sometimes I no longer have the freedom to march across the country to be a part of special evenings. There are also the inevitable date clashes where big decisions are made. Never have cloning and teleportation been so necessary in my life!
On Sunday I missed one of the best opportunities since the Verve Festival. Bang Said the Gun – which I have known about since 2014 and watched countless clips of online is touring and they kicked off in Stafford – relatively close (would be closer if the M6 ever flowed properly) with Jo Bell and Jonny Fluffypunk (two of my old time/all time favs) and I missed it! It was Sunday night, Week 3 and 4 are full in my diary, energy was low, as were funds and Mr G and I need to spend more time together and my car is the equivalent of an old broken pull along toy with some bits missing and broken/re-knotted string! I do not trust it on terribly long journeys or car park motorways where you hear it over heat within the first crawling 100 yards.
I missed an amazing night and an opportunity to see friends from that neck of the woods too. Gutted. I did go to check out tickets and look at the rest of the tour and this was the nearest and also had the featured artists I wanted to see. I would say there will be other times, but with something like this – there won’t be. Gutted with a capital G.
Canterbury never had anything like this when I lived there either!
I knew I would miss License to Rhyme at the Artrix, featuring Pete the Temp. I had to work and manage Manchester the following evening and I spent part of Monday choosing and rehearsing/timing my set. I also spent time with family, which I hadn’t planned much beforehand and this left me hours behind on writing time. Not that it would be any other way. Family comes first. It just meant the will I /won’t I… became a definite No I won’t!
Again I heard good things about the evening and am particularly disappointed that I missed Fergus McGonigal and Lorna Meehan performing.
I did receive some exciting emails which made a night in with my inbox particularly worthwhile. And have since taken action on these – fingers crossed once again!
On Tuesday I headlined alongside Becky Cheeriman and Mark Pajak in Manchester at Sarah L. Dixon’s Quiet, Quiet Loud. I have known about this booking at Quiet, Quiet Loud for months and the butterflies went tribal. Originally looking to headline in April or May, the gig was brought forward as Sarah L Dixon is on the move and this was to be her final event at The Llyod’s.
Rick Saunders had signed up for the open mic and kindly offered to chauffeur up the M6. Unfortunately, days before his car broke down and so we were left with some last minute arrangements. In the end we hired a car (scared that mine wouldn’t make a 200 mile round trip in a night). The journey there was fine, even passing a Willis milk tanker – Rick’s stage name is Willis the Poet… we passed the time chatting about the spoken word scene and stopping just once for the most expensive bottle of service station water – I think it was made from diamonds or something! The journey back was horrendous, closed motorways, detours and a SATNAV that was convinced the motorway junction was still open.
I spent Wednesday morning before work recovering, I found out about the Science and Arts Festival hosted by Birmingham University and a creative writing workshop that I would have loved to attend, although it would have been a lot before work to manage. I have pencilled it in for next year as there were lots of interesting events.
I spent Wednesday night working on submissions and on Thursday mum and I went to see Verve – Northern School of Contemporary Dance. Mr G bought us tickets for Christmas.
They made me want to dance again, to create dance poetry and to lose myself in costume and movement. The fact that my body could barely manage to sit through a 2 hour production tells me otherwise, but my soul is still very much committed!
I spent the weekend on things other than writing and chiselled out some time at the end of Sunday to write applications and work on my writing action plan. There are some intended submissions to create before the end of the month and three sets to plan for EarthHour (25th March), HerStory (31st March) and Poetry Ballroom (2nd April).
The week started with a flurry of activity organising poetry events and writing. February was a busy month for making applications and devising projects and this month sees more energy focused on these and some fruition.
I spent the first part of the week in rest (working, sleeping, living) and saving energy for a series of 3 days of poeting. Which was easy as only one of them involved performing. Although I left it somewhat late to arrange a set and fine tune the details.
I also agreed to hiding some GOLDEN TICKETS for Birmingham Literature Festival. It is the 20th Anniversary this year and the team have organised a Spring Festival to celebrate. They have sent out Golden Tickets to be found in local bookshops, Art cafes and libraries. I have taken two under my wing and let them fly (and hide).
The lucky finder wins a free ticket (worth at least £10) to an event of their choice. I want to find one of these – but it may cost more petrol money than buying a ticket. Fun idea. Great one. One I may steal in the future! First time I have ever felt like Willy Wonka… it was a good feeling.
On Thursday I saw Hollie McNish, I love Hollie… it has been a while since I saw her perform and part of me knew that this book would be difficult for me for personal reasons, this is why I have not yet bought a copy – but watching her breathing magic into the tale and hearing such personal disclosure and truth was wonderful. The event had been organised at The Hive (Library) in partnership with Poetry On Loan – well done to Brenda Read-Brown!
I had been to the basement space once with my writing group and was amazed to find the event not in the studio – that was until I saw the size of the audience! Holly thought, it being a library gig in a small city there may be about 20 people! Multiply that by 10! A smashing night.
I spent the majority of my spare time writing and editing and planning how an earth I was going to manage this final week of performances and deadlines. The solution was an A4 checklist that I had very little leeway on.
I also had another poem published ‘Rag Tree’ which will be in the Beltane anthology by Three Drops. More news about festival events I am organising/performing in and events that I am just performing in. Future workshops to book and lots of potential festival tickets to be bought. I wrote new work and edited older poems.
Tuesday evening saw the final PTS – Permission to Speak become Permission to Shut Up – as it was a work night I was worried I may not last until the end, but scribbled a new poem especially for the last event (for now), the night before and got a short set ready. I was due to headline in May, potentially Rob may have a new venue by then, but I get the feeling that he needs/wants a mini-break and this would be the time to take it.
It was a great night, all in all and I will mark the occasion with a blog post as soon as I get some spare time. I took lots of pictures and stayed until the end to see Rick present Rob with his pamphlet.
42 in Worcester celebrated it’s 6th birthday and I took a newly scribed poem to celebrate. Rick Saunders headlined Spoken Trend on the same night, which I had to miss. Please someone clone me! Event clashes… every poet’s nemesis! 42 was fun and again, I will mark the occasion with a full blogpost when I have a little time. Polly made an amazing Black Forest Gateaux cake! Makes my mouth water just thinking about it. All the performances were bang on and the celebratory air was sweet.
LINKS TO FOLLOW.
With two days left of March and Easter around the corner, you may think that was it… no, I am playing the game – How much can you pack into 48hours?
Thursday I gave myself a night off from performing/events – missing out on Caffe Grande Slam in Dudley again, I will get there. I spent the evening editing a new poem (my 3rd this week) and submitting work.
I also received an exciting email from my publisher. Another review of Fragile Houses, this time on Sabotage Reviews. How wonderful to start and end the month with reviews. You can read Rachel Stirling’s incredibly intricate review here.
I discovered Claire Walker and Holly Magill have embarked on editing a new Magazine ‘Atrium’, they have both edited for Kate Garrett at Three Drops recently and this new opportunity morphed from that experience. More on Atrium soon.
I saw Heather Wastie’s Nationwide advert – which was as equally exciting as watching Jo Bell’s and what made it special was seeing it first thing before work and in the final adverts before bed. Don’t ask me how I have time to watch TV and complete my mammoth writing tasks!
Holly McNish won the Ted Hughes award (one of the judges this year was Jo Bell – busy as always). Amazing news & recognition!
I received news of another successful Festival bid for this summer. More on this soon.
I completed the month with a Woo Feminista event HerStory at Café Bliss. I will blog and link it up here as soon as I can.
And now I am ready for NaPoWriMo, Poetry Ballroom and a rather-already-regrettable booking of an almost full week of work! I booked Monday off as I have 3 consecutive events this weekend and will be typing until my fingers go numb finishing my writing tasks over the next 24 hours!
I hope you all had a good month too. Leave me some of your highlights in the comments, it would be great to hear from you.
Last year Sarah Dixon contacted me about headlining in Manchester, originally the booking was set for April/May- but due to Sarah relocating my spot was brought forward to March.
I booked time off work and made arrangements. I was originally going to do an overnight and what I learnt from this experience is how to be sensible… gigging further afield, it is probably best to stay overnight. Fortunately, Rick Saunders (a.k.a Willis the Poet), signed up for the open mic and offered to drive. Unfortunately his car broke down the week before and we ended up hiring a nifty little number to get us Northbound.
Manchester isn’t all that far away, but after a day of work and with butterfly nerves I did not fancy driving. Plus I have an inherent fear of the M6! That pesky Toll road…
Our journey out there was easy, didn’t take long. We found the venue and headed off for some tea before going to the The Llyod’s Hotel. Our journey back was horrendous with motorway closures, traffic jams and a satnav that was convinced the signs suggesting junction closures were wrong.
BUT – it was all worth it!
Quiet, Quiet Loud is an incredible event that Sarah has been running for two and a half years now. I can imagine the loss to the local poetry community (having just experienced the end of PTS at the Scary Canary).
March 14th Quiet, Quiet Loud
Guests Mark Pajak and Becky Cherriman and Nina Lewis
Mark Pajak was born in Merseyside. His work has been published in Magma, The North and The Rialto (among others), been highly commended in the Cheltenham Poetry Competition and National Poetry Competition and won first place in the 2016 Bridport Prize. He has received a Northern Writer’s Award from New Writing North and was 2016’s Apprentice Poet in Residence at Ilkley Literature Festival. His first pamphlet, Spitting Distance, was selected as a Laureate’s Choice and is published with smith|doorstop.
Becky Cherriman is a writer, workshop leader and performer based in Leeds. Published by Mslexia, New Walk, Envoi, Mother’s Milk, Bloodaxe, Well Versed and in… Poets For Corbyn, she was resident poet for Morley Literature Festival in 2013 and lead artist for Altofts Festival In A Day 2016. Becky is a co-writer and performer of Haunt, a site-specific theatre commission for Imove, a project about homelessness. She is currently working on her one woman show with voices, Corseted. Her first poetry pamphlet Echolocation and first collection Empires of Clay were published in 2016 by Mother’s Milk and Cinnamon Press respectively. www.beckycherriman.com Nina Lewis is widely published in poetry journals and anthologies, including Abridged, Fat Damsel, Take Ten, Hark, Here Comes Everyone (HCE), I am Not a Silent Poet, New Ulster Poetry, Nutshells and Nuggets, Under the Radar and Visual Verse. Worcestershire Poet Laureate Competition 2015/2016 runner-up, Nina often performs at spoken word events and literary festivals. She was commissioned to write and perform poetry on ‘ecology and the city’ at the Birmingham Literature Festival in 2014. Her haiku have appeared in an art installation at the Midlands Art Centre, on the Poetry Fence at Acton Scott Historic Working Farm and in Municipal Bank Vaults for an International Dance Festival. Nina’s work also formed part of the poetry trail for Wenlock Poetry Festival 2014. Fragile Houses, published by V. Press autumn 2016, is her first pamphlet.
I was really excited to meet Becky and see Mark again (who I first saw perform at Waterstones last Autumn with the Poetry Business).
It was a thrill to stand in a room I had seen on social media for years! The standard of poetry was really high and there were plenty of open mic spots. An appreciative, poetry loving audience and bundles of talent. It was lovely to see Sarah again and hear her poems, many from her pamphlet collection (fingers crossed for this to make publication soon). I had the pleasure of reading through a draft copy for her last year. She chose some strong poems to share with us.
Becky Cherriman was the first Guest Poet to take to the floor. I love it when I do not know a poet and have no idea what to expect.
I was moved by Becky’s set and need to buy her book, she was a wonderful performer and her poetry ran a gauntlet of emotions. An incredibly powerful set. It was good to meet her.
I would have bought her book on the night but with hire charges and petrol/drinks etc. my cash was a little light. I will catch her again and you should too. A gifted poet who deals with all shades of life. I still have her poetry in my head a fortnight later.
Mark Pajak took us into his world after the interval. I was looking forward to hearing his work again and thoroughly enjoyed his set. It was good to hear more from him. He is talented performer and an engaging poet. He writes about some seemingly bizarre incidents and is not afraid to share them, despite being advised not to. I appreciate that rebellious side. His work is like nothing I have read or heard from anybody else, unique. Prizewinning and extra special.
I was nervous having watched these masters at work and really wanted to change my set – but having timed it I didn’t think it was appropriate to cast last minute changes. I find my pamphlet fairly difficult to share as I want to give the audience enough of the sizzle and taste but don’t want to take them on the whole chronological journey or indeed read all the poems in the book. I have seen other headliners (with pamphlets) sharing several newer poems too, this may be the way forward – but I am not entirely sure. It may be like when you see a band and want them to play the albums and they slip in several B sides… I have always been a fan of the B side.
It was a pleasure to be invited to the final Quiet, Quiet Loud and read in Manchester. It was an inspiring evening filled with poetry buzz.
If you want to read a review of my set, check out Rick’s blogpost below.