Tag Archives: Helen Calcutt

Book Launch: Unable Mother by Helen Calcutt

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Described as a ‘violent grapple with our cosy notions of motherhood’ (Robert Peake)  this bold and breathtaking new book of poems exposes the painful and the beautiful experience  of becoming a new mother, torch-lit with violent and tender experience, sung from the body, and cast through a unique metaphoric lens.
This promises to be an unforgettable evening, celebrating themes of womanhood, transformation, and new life.

 

A much awaited Book Launch happened this month. Helen Calcutt’s first collection UNABLE MOTHER published by V. Press was launched at Waterstones, Birmingham.

I have heard Helen read from Unable Mother several times and was looking forward to getting my hands on a copy. The journey to Birmingham was epic with several issues that had occurred earlier in the day, trains were not running well. We waited on a platform for nearly an hour. By the time we arrived in Birmingham it felt like we should have least made it to Manchester!

I was delighted to see lots of familiar faces and the room was buzzing with pre-launch excitement. Helen had some 90s pop quietly playing in the background and everyone was settling in ready to hear some stunning poetry.

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The evening was hosted by Gavin, who is a Storyteller but he still treated us to a poem.

Helen invited Guest Poets Nellie Cole, Isabel Galleymore, Claire Walker and David Calcutt to read during the first part of the evening. Each poet read 3 or 4 poems which was enough to catch the flavour of their writing and leave the audience wanting more.

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Nellie Cole

I first heard Nellie at Stirchley Speaks a few years ago and thought how confident she was back then, how grounded her work is. I am delighted that I have heard some of the poems in her debut pamphlet in genesis form. I find it fascinating following the progress through to end results. ‘Bella’ is published by Offa’s Press.

http://offaspress.co.uk/poets/nellie-cole/

Nellie is from the Black Country and started writing poetry when she studied at Birmingham University.

Bella is … a work which blends factual evidence with folklore, superstition, hearsay and the imagination, these poems explore the Worcestershire murder mystery ‘Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm?’

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The book table at Helen’s Launch generously featured her Guest Poets, I needed more than my train fare and money for Unable Mother. I had hoped to catch Nellie performing at Permission to Speak on the 12th but due to work commitments was not able to make it. Bella is a book destined for my reading pile.

You can grab yourselves a copy here http://offaspress.co.uk/shop/

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Isabel Galleymore

I was really excited to hear Isabel’s set as I had not heard her read before. I have read her work, several poems are published on the Poetry Foundation website. She also won the Eric Gregory Award in 2017.

Isabel shared a beautiful set, her poetry draws the listener in. I definitely wanted to hear more.

Isabel’s first collection ‘Significant Other’ will be out next year (March 2019) published by Carcanet. Until then copies of Dazzle Ship published by Worple Press can be found here.

http://www.worplepress.com/dazzle-ship/

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Claire Walker

Claire Walker is a poet I know well, having met her on my first adventure as a poet back in September 2013, she is a good friend and a fellow V. Press poet and it is always a pleasure to listen to her work.

Her debut pamphlet ‘The Girl Who Turned Into a Crocodile’ (V. Press 2015) has sold out, but the poems in those covers remain strong. I was so glad she shared ‘Teaching Your Daughter to Crack Eggs’. Claire’s second pamphlet ‘Somewhere Between Rose and Black’ (2017) published by V. Press was available on the book table.

You can get a copy here http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.com/2017/12/launching-somewhere-between-rose-and.html

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David Calcutt

Three marvellous sets by three amazing poets and I thought it would be Helen next. Then we were introduced to David Calcutt who after his set was then to introduce Helen.

I had not expected David to be reading and was very happy when I discovered he was. It was a captivating set. He read from his latest collection ‘The last of the light is not the last of the light’, published by Fair Acre Press which launched earlier this year. https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/06/30/a-night-of-light/

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You can buy a copy here https://fairacrepress.co.uk/shop/david-calcutt-the-last-of-the-light-is-not-the-last-of-the-light/

 

 

 

 

As a daughter of a musician (and an ‘in the shadow of’ musician) I understand the need for a daughter of a writer/poet to want to feel she has established herself without standing on the shoulders of her father. Helen has definitely done that and I was touched by her metaphorical sigh of relief. Her first collection now published she could confidently invite David to be part of the Launch.

Even if David was aware he may be sounding like Father of the Bride in introducing us to her.

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Helen Calcutt

Like Claire, I have known Helen for a while and always enjoy listening to her work. I had the pleasure of hearing a set from Unable Mother at David’s Launch back in June and had heard some of the poems from the collection at other events. But this evening I was buying my own copy.

Hearing some of the poems for a second or third time works for me, because like a good film you notice something else. Something new. When I read poetry books it is not unusual for me to read a poem twice. Of course, in an extended set Helen shared more poems than I had heard and also the stories woven into the poems. How poems written for one thing take on significant and different meanings because of her experiences since.

She even shared the stories behind the magnificent cover.

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Helen Calcutt

It was a very moving set and left a few of us in tears. Helen trusted us enough to expose parts of her life on a soul level, it was painfully honest. The poems speak this honesty, this undoing of secrets, uncovering the things we don’t talk about, the experiences we hide – it all holds importance.

As Robert Peake says in his endorsement: “This work challenges our abstract and cosy notions of motherhood with a brutal and vulnerable delve into the psyche.” 

Helen’s set was brave and touching.

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An excellent evening and a wonderful book launch and a fine celebration with cake, wine and book signings afterwards.

Unable Mother Calcutt 978-1-9998444-0-0 You can buy a copy here

http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.com/p/unable-mother.html and also read a sample poem and hear Soundcloud audio of a selection of poems from the book.

“This work challenges our abstract and cosy notions of motherhood with a brutal and vulnerable delve into the psyche. Calcutt grapples, sometimes violently, sometimes with aching tenderness, each hard-won line ‘like squeezing / flesh and fruit from the bone, / this terrible love’. Yet these poems reach even further, into the rent world, and the remarkable kinds of beauty to which poetry alone can allude. This is an intimate book, the kind that comes in close to your ear to whisper dark secrets and unavoidable truths. These poems are spare, careful, insistent–and devastatingly good.” Robert Peake

“Helen Calcutt’s poems are full of surprising and intricate moments – they unfold like origami, deftly packing and unpacking themselves into new forms and presenting the reader with confidences, secrets and insight, the tender words for the things that are hard to say. In their explorations of motherhood, loss and discovery, Calcutt’s poetry is steeled with precise language, always finding clarity forged in the heart of experience.  These are intimate poems which are felt in the body, and written with a keen physicality – ‘love is meant to live on in the body’ writes Calcutt, ‘My flesh making heaven of it.’ In their makings and re-makings, each poem here reveals this to be a remarkable and potent debut.” Jane Commane

https://helencalcutt.org/

 

Stuart Bartholomew Waterstones Regional Manager is a huge supporter of Poetry (as well as co-director of Verve Poetry Festival and Verve Poetry Press) and he made sure this evening was smooth and possible, so I think he deserves some poetry thanks and praise too!

A Night of Light

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© 2018 @waynefoxphotography

I had the pleasure of attending a Book Launch on Thursday night. It had been an exceptionally long and somewhat emotional day at work and then I had to dash off for more work before heading across to the suburbs to catch a train into the city. My train was delayed with a 15 minute wait in between stations, déjà vu to my last post-Book Launch ride home, which took the best part of an hour (three times the journey). I managed to arrive just in time, but not looking too fresh after all my whizzing around!

I am so glad I made it though as it was a most special evening. Part of me knew it would be because – it was David Calcutt’s Launch.

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© 2018 @waynefoxphotography

I know that some of the poems in this new collection The last of the light is not the last of the light, published by Fair Acre Press, are going to be a hard read, tissues on stand by and I was worried that I may fall apart during the launch but the set David chose suited us celebrating his poetry perfectly.

There was music from Glen Buglass, poetry from Nadia Kingsley, Roz Goddard, Helen Calcutt and even a Harmonica, cakes, Prosecco and BOOKS.

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© 2018 @waynefoxphotography

We were in the Art Room, which is where I had my own Book Launch back in 2016. The evening was hosted by Jonathan Davidson and the room was full of poets, friends and family. With the talented work of photographer Wayne Fox, whose images will hopefully capture something of the experience for you. Thank you to Wayne for allowing me to use his work in this review.

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© 2018 @waynefoxphotography

Despite knowing I would write a review, I really felt that not taking notes was important. I wanted to be 100% present. The evening began with music from Glen Buglass , it ended with music and in between we were treated to some fine poetry.

Nadia Kingsley was the first poet to take a spot, as Editor of Fair Acre Press this was a fitting start. Nadia and David have a working relationship that stretches back years. I loved Nadia telling us that the initial seed for their collaborative work started through a conversation they had a poetry festival whilst waiting in a queue to buy books! I saw them perform together in Kidderminster and bought both books Roadkill and Through the Woods. Nadia writes a lot about Nature, and treated us to a set of superb poems and spoke about David and the opportunity and pleasure of publishing this collection.

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Helen Calcutt read poems from her forthcoming V. Press collection ‘Unable Mother’ which launches in September. She told us she was honoured to be one of the Guest Poets and had not expected it. Her set took us through womanhood, motherhood, nature and loss.

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© 2018 @waynefoxphotography

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Following on was Roz Goddard who read some poems from her Flarestack Pamphlet ‘Spill’ and others. She lifted me with her poem about the joy of Buddhism. Another beautiful set.

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Then we had an interval of books, cake and Prosecco. I had planned to mingle like mad, but with so many people in the room I wanted to talk to, this was impossible. I barely made it from my seat, I managed to catch up with five people – although hugging with Prosecco & cake hands is a fine art!

Sadly, I missed a chat with Helen (who flew off to teach Dance) and wasn’t there at the end when I managed my mingle.

The room was a hive of activity and it took professional shepherding to get us all back to our seats.

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Before Jonathan introduced David, there was more music.

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© 2018 @waynefoxphotography

David shared just six poems, although true to his impromptu style changed his mind on at least one, I wasn’t counting – he may have added or substituted. Whatever he did, it was magical to hear. I think most people bought the collection so we will be able to read it for ourselves, it is always memorable to hear the poet read their own words.

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I was grateful that the light was very much present throughout the evening and in David’s set. And to finish the night- we were treated to a musical duet. I don’t think I have ever heard the musician David Calcutt and it was a treat. I was certainly transported to Mississippi, lost on dreams of travel I thoroughly enjoyed this highlight.

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© 2018 @waynefoxphotography

It was great to catch up with friends and Birmingham, to find pockets of time to catch up with Stuart Bartholomew and to buy the book. I had a good mingle after the event and managed to catch up with most people.

 

A thoroughly enjoyable Book Launch with a relaxed atmosphere. A perfect evening.

calcutt  If you click the cover you can buy a copy for yourself.

“This is a collection full of grace, at once deeply authentic and heart-felt, a set of beautiful lyrical poems.”

 

RELATED LINKS:

https://www.waynefoxphotography.com/

Open Poetry for PIPKA

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PIPKA is a self organised refugee camp set up to help Refugees in Greece.

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Performers included:

Set 1
Mike Alma
Mickey Ali
Romalyn Ante
Suzan Atasu
Richard Archer
Elaine Christie
Ann Clarson
Tina Cole
Leanne Cooper

Guest: Helen Calcutt

Set 2
PIPKA Aurelie Blondeau

Grace Dore
Emily Galvin
Amanda Glover
Penny Harper
Jane James
Janet Jenkins
Gerald Kells
Nina Lewis

Set 3
Liz Mills
John Mills
Neil Richards
Janet Smith
Mel Woodend
Sue Wood

Guest: Christina Thatcher

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It took Mike and I an epic amount of time to get to Walsall – 2 hours (!) as there were motorway closures and traffic queues at stand still throughout the route, we did make it in time for the 2nd and 3rd sets.

It was great to see everyone again at the Arboretum, it feels like a long time since I have been there. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see Helen and Christina in action either. They were performing at Waterstones, which I believe has been postponed/rescheduled but was on a date I couldn’t attend. I was not expecting a buffet but was very glad of it – Mike and I had not eaten and were planning to grab lunch in the cafe before the event as we set off plenty early enough to do so.

Also, the main focus was to raise money for charity, so giving a donation to perform was all part of it too. If I had a valid passport I would go and do something too. Especially after hearing Aurelie Blondeau Calcutt talk about her experience with Helen out there.

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Elaine Christie © 2017

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Helen Calcutt © 2017

Below: all photos by Elaine Christie, unless otherwise stated.

 

 

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Many people shared important poems about the refugee crisis.

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Janet Jenkins © 2017

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Christina Thatcher performed a couple of sets from her collection ‘More Than You Were’ a book about grief and losing her father. Emotive the exploration of a relationship that is far from perfect and no longer able to be reconciled. This is a hard and beautiful collection.

https://christinathatcher.com/

In July 2013, David Thatcher died of a drug overdose in America. More than you were was written by his daughter, to try to understand what came after. The result is a striking collection of poetry which explores addiction, family politics, childhood memories and grief. © 2017, Parthian Books.

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After the event Helen sent this message of gratitude.

Pikpa poetry was brilliant yesterday. Thank you everyone who came and performed for us. Listened to us. And donated. We have now raised £610 for Lesvos Solidarity – Pikpa. Nearly half-way there.

A special thanks to Christina Thatcher for travelling all the from sunny Cardiff to read from her new collection – stirring, compelling, brilliant. To Aurelie Blondeau Calcutt for the very positive, informative talk. And to Pop for putting it all on for us. Love to you all, it was a truly successful (and inspiring) afternoon.

Helen Calcutt © 2017

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If you would like to make a donation you can do so here.

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/pikpa-medical-uk

In May 2017, my sister-in-law and I visited PIKPA, a self-organised refugee camp on the island of Lesvos, providing support to the most vulnerable individuals seeking refuge. We were both inspired and saddened by what we saw. After speaking with Dimitri Ippioti, one of the two nurses on PIKPA, we decided to focus on crowdfunding for healthcare.

Helen Calcutt © 2017

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Vanguard Readings – Birmingham

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2016 has been a busy year, which is why the blog posts are fewer. My pamphlet has reached final proof stages after 17 months of hard work. The editing process is a new experience for me and due to the nature of the subject (core of which is family/growing up) it has taken time to cross that gauntlet between autobiographical recount and something interesting enough for people to read, feel, attach themselves to.

I am in final proof stages with my pamphlet now and it is a great  feeling.

There are gaps I want to fill on the blog and now I have started to work on INKSPILL, I want to fill the gaps before the next big project takes over.

VANGUARD READINGS

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Back in March I attended Vanguard Readings, in Birmingham. Richard Skinner is the man behind Vanguard. Vanguard Readings are hosted monthly in London from October to July, they feature new writers and established authors, 6 writers each read for 10 minutes.

Richard realised the need for expanding out and touring Vanguard Readings regionally.

vanguardI am glad he did. A whole evening being carried away by poetry. Readers; David Calcutt, Helen Calcutt, David Clarke, Jane Commane, Emma Purshouse and Richard Skinner.

With plenty of time in the interval to mingle, chat and catch up. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and came away feeling inspired and rekindled.

Vanguard Readings take place at The Peckham Pelican, SE London.

‘Break on Through’

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It has been over a week since my last blog post, I come to write this post on loss and find that the programming has been updated and content looks completely different for us on WordPress. I wish there was an option to use the old format, but alas, as with life things move on.

A lot has happened in the poetry world, my world and the world since I last posted and although I tend to steer clear of media stories, I cannot let the passing of David Bowie and Alan Rickman go without a mention.

I discovered Bowie as a teen, music first, then ‘Labyrinth’ years later, even tried my hand at creating the jacket worn by the Goblin King and definitely copied the eye make-up! As for Alan Rickman, as I was training to be an actress, he was someone I felt even closer to. First discovered in ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’ – what an actor, what a presence, what a voice.

It is a sad loss to the Arts that these two stars have been extinguished at just 69, both dying from Cancer. May they Rest In Peace.

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Closer to home, the poetry community was rocked on the 5th January by the sad news that a wonderful poet, Sammy Joe, was no longer with us. The outpouring of love since has been amazing, I only wish she could read the heartfelt words. All the events I have attended in the past week have offered words in her memory and I know we will get to celebrate her life sometime in the future.

Lots of people are grieving and my thoughts are with her daughter, Rosie and the family. We (the poetry community) have shared compassion in grief. It has shaken all of us and it is almost impossible to imagine the world without her. It will be a long while before we realise we will not see her again, she isn’t going to turn up at events. It has also made us all wake up and appreciate what life is and how we need to let friends know they are in our hearts.

Which is where Sammy is now, Rest In Peace, my friend. x

bakehouse Photo Credit Janet Jenkins

I struggle to write about how it feels. Helen Calcutt has written a blogpost, shared across social media http://helencalcutt.org/2016/01/06/words-will-safeguard-the-spirit-eternally/ so I am sure she won’t mind me posting it here.

All this loss so early in the year, not to mention tales of friends and families who have lost loved ones over the Festive Season. It has been hard to keep buoyant New Year hopes alive with all this bigger things happening. Sometimes I feel guilty for pushing on regardless. It is what those of us left on the planet have to do though.

Headstrong fragility is the state I wear this week. There are many of us walking in this daze.

Take care out there and tell people that you love them! x

 

The photographs were taken on a poetry day last summer. Walsall Arboretum/ Bakehouse Workshop – Walsall Arts Festival and in the evening Pre-launch event in Birmingham for Arts all Over the Place. Sammy Joe did a lot of work with 1 in 4 Drama Group, like myself she was a poet and dramaturge.

 

Poetry Bites – Guest Spots: Helen Calcutt and Sarah James

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Poetry Bites: Helen Calcutt, Sarah James

I have had my eye of this event for a while but have never managed to make it to a night. The Kitchen Garden Café is a fantastic venue and Jacqui Rowe hosts a superb night. For just £5/£3 you get to see TWO top guest spots and plenty of talent from the floor in 3 minute slots.

A few of us planned to go to support Sarah James, who performed a very strong set – complete with tulip! She looked as if she was enjoying the evening as much as the rest of us.

I knew there were floor spots but only decided last minute to join in.  I am glad I did, the audience was very warm.

It was the first time I had heard Helen Calcutt, although she is very involved in the scene our paths have not yet crossed. She has a dance background, so there is some common ground there and she looked incredible after recently becoming a new mum! Amazed that she is back to performing so soon afterwards.

Although I know of Jacqui Rowe I have missed all her workshops, surgeries and events up until now. It was lovely to finally meet her in person and a treat to hear her poems.

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Helen Calcutt

http://helencalcutt.org/about-2/

Sarah James

http://www.sarah-james.co.uk/

JacquiRowe

http://www.jacquirowe.com/

 

 

 

 

Poetry Bites;

“One of the top 10 venues for poetry in the UK” (Susan Richardson, Radio 4).