Yesterday I listened to incredible poems from George Szirtes, Moniza Alvi and Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese at LIVE at The Butchery. Their poems will sit with me for a long time.
During the event Jacqueline Saphra dropped a link to the Fundraiser which happened in London on Mother’s Day, 30th March.
A fundraising, awareness-raising, spirit-raising day of poetry in solidarity with the people of Ukraine at this time of great peril and suffering.
Poets for Ukraine, in partnership with The Society of Authors, The Poetry Society, The Poetry School and JW3 held a Poem-a-Thon here at JW3 where sponsored poets read in relay for up to five minutes, some in person and some virtually.
Special guests include:
Juliet Stevenson, Jessie Ware, Meera Syal, Sophie Ward and Nick Hytner Naomi Shihab Nye from the USA Headliner poets from the UK, including former Scottish Makar Jackie Kay Former National Poet of Wales Gillian Clarke Imtiaz Dharker who holds the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry This year’s Costa Book Prize winner Hannah Lowe Forward Prize winner Fiona Benson Former Poet Laureates Carol Ann Duffy and Andrew Motion Poet in Residence for Radio 4 & 4 Extra Daljit Nagra Veteran actors Harriet Walter and Bill Paterson They will share the spotlight with Ukrainian poets appearing on video both from the frontline and the diaspora.
All proceeds to our chosen charities, Goods for Good and Hope and Aid Direct.
The links for giving are available under the video.
I can’t believe the last day of Napo is here and I have a schedule which keeps me in other pockets of the internet, so I checked this morning read the prompt page and have just come back to it now. I was really excited to see Jacqueline’s name – she is a brilliant poet and lovely woman and I shall add a bit more about her and her work here in this post. In case you have not been lucky enough to find her poems for yourselves yet.
I also love The Poetry Society – they are incredible and one year even offered a NaPoWriMo month of prompts and community. I have looked and used this resource before – but years ago and I am a different person/poet now (so just like when Jericho Brown repeated a masterclass and I rewrote the same work 6 months later there was change and it was exciting to go and find the Autumn notebook and compare the work) so don’t be put off if you are repeating a prompt. Remember you come to the page as a different person.
I started (as always) with the feature poems and loved the fact that I had a porthole on my list as well – and with the second poem that sense of threat matches my poem becoming threatening – I suppose looking in on a space does this to the writing.
I can’t sign in to leave a comment for Amita Sarjit Ahluwalia as my inbox is full and I can’t verify myself. I enjoyed this poem, the flow of it seemed to be rhythmical taking me up and down on the ocean and into the same trance observed in View Through a Port Hole.
It was a fifteen day sea voyage From Mumbai to Mombasa
Love we are set in place straight away especially as it is a poem exploring the relentless view of sea – which when in the middle of the ocean it does feel you could be anywhere.
And watch the foam forming and dissolving endlessly On the restless tireless blue waves And now and then a flying fish
I thought the blue days at sea would never end
I was glad to see landfall Too much sea can kill the soul.
It was a beautiful poem to start the day with, even though it drives to the madness of being stuck with just the view of blue, for me – so far from the coast it was a much needed visit to the ocean.
Anna Enbom’s poem That window – the second part of this poem really got me. I liked the exploration of coming through the gauntlet of our lives.
Brick buildings though, with kids’ paintings taped to the inside of
the glass door, still makes my thoughts stop and fall
I am often stressed about the years passing, things I have not done
yet and the fact that my death is less distant for every year But when I think about that window, I know time passing is good I am not there anymore
This poem holds so much life and emotion, so many stories of lives connecting and crossing and I love that line‘still makes my thoughts stop and fall’.
I had a look at the featured reading which I should be available to watch tomorrow (although last night I fell asleep in the late night for us USA reading). I looked up Sam Sax and thought he was new to me – but when I read a selection of his poems I came to Prayer for the Mutilated World – and realised I had read his work before.
The prompt today also offers a whole sheet of other prompts – which is great if you are thinking you may have withdrawal symptoms – just visit and do one a day and that will settle you right into May.
I don’t need to write lots for you all about Jacqueline Saphra as she has a brilliant website which will show you all I was going to say.
I was fortunate enough to meet Jacqueline back in 2016 when I read at the London Book Fair, I actually met her on a busy London crossing when I had skipped out for a walk/break/air. I have attended her readings ever since and in 2017 she was one of the Poets in Residence at Swindon Poetry Festival so I got a complete Saphra fix.
Her books are amazing her poetry is incredible and if you don’t her go and spend time on the site. There were many poets who joined Jacqueline writing a sonnet a day and it was a pleasure to read them in the original form and watch them being shared.
Jacqueline’s Lockdown Sonnets of 2020 are bound into this beautifully produced Nine Arches Press bookOne Hundred Lockdown Sonnets, now available as paperback, the original was a gorgeous hardback – 100 copies were made and the books helped raise the £2000 target for the Trussell Trust Charity. More than half the cover cost went to the charity with every edition sold.
It was certainly exciting to be at the launch of this work and to hear the poems I had read in progress. Plus seeing her guest poets many of whom are on my favourite poets list (the one in my head) And LOOK – you can watch it all here!
The online launch of Jacqueline Saphra’s One Hundred Lockdown Sonnets. With guest poets Anja Konig, Miriam Nash, Jacob Sam-La Rose, plus recorded readings and messages from Ian McMillan and Naomi Shihab Nye.
About this Event:
Launching the publication of One Hundred Lockdown Sonnets by Jacqueline Saphra. A poetic journal that chronicles the personal and political upheavals and tragedies of the Covid pandemic. Written as a daily sonnet throughout the first lockdown, Saphra’s unique, candid and revealing sequence is a record of strange and unparalleled days.
The one hundred poems are published by Nine Arches Press in a limited edition of just one hundred hardback books, marking their 100th publication. Sold in aid of the Trussell Trust which supports a nationwide network of food banks and campaigns for change to end the need for food banks in the UK. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraisin…
Jacqueline Saphra is joined on the night by guest poets Anja Konig, Miriam Nash and Jacob Sam-La Rose who will each share a poem of their own and one of Jacqueline’s sonnets. We also have recorded messages and readings from Ian McMillan and Naomi Shihab Nye.
Jacqueline Saphra is a poet, playwright and tutor based in London. All My Mad Mothers was shortlisted for the 2017 T.S. Eliot prize and was followed by Dad, Remember You are Dead in 2019, both from Nine Arches Press. A Bargain with the Light: Poems after Lee Miller (2017) and Veritas: Poems after Artemisia (2020) are both published by Hercules Editions.
Anja Konig grew up in the German language and now writes in English. Her first pamphlet Advice for an Only Child (Flipped Eye) was shortlisted for the 2015 Michael Marks award. Her first full collection Animal Experiments (Bad Betty Press) was selected as one of the best 2020 collections by the Daily Telegraph.
Miriam Nash is a poet, performer and educator. Her collection of poems All the Prayers in the House (Bloodaxe Books, 2017) won a Somerset Maugham Award and an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors. Her latest book, TheNine Mothers of Heimdallr (Hercules Editions, 2020) is a giant, matriarchal re-telling of the Norse creation myth. She leads online poetry workshops at Lightkeepers.co.uk.
Jacob Sam-La Rose is a poet, editor, artistic director and educator, deeply invested in supporting emerging voices. His collection Breaking Silence (Bloodaxe Books)is required reading for an A’ level syllabus. He is a poetry professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, poet-in-residence for English Heritage, and directs the Barbican Young Poets programme.
Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet, songwriter, and novelist. She was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother. She began composing her first poem at the age of six and has published or contributed to over 30 volumes. Her works include poetry, young-adult fiction, picture books, and novels.
Ian McMillan is an English poet, journalist, playwright, and broadcaster. He is known for his strong and distinctive Yorkshire accent and his incisive, friendly interview style on programmes such as BBC Radio 3’s The Verb. He lives in Darfield, the village of his birth. You can donate to the Trussell Trust at our fundraiser page https://www.justgiving.com/fundraisin…
Thank you from Nine Arches Press and Jacqueline Saphra
I thought I would really struggle with this one and have already scribbled a few poems about the infrequent lockdown walks and decided I didn’t want any mention of caged freedoms. So in the end I sat quietly and not much time later had my AHA moment. A journey I did 100s of times in 2019. A journey which should take 5-10 mins and was taking me 30-40 at least means that the specific details of this route are well settled in my mind.
I just do what I have done for the past 30 days and freewheeled a poem out from somewhere. It has legs (which a poem about walking probably should) and after a bit of editing may shine up well.
February arrived and I could barely believe January was over! Another month fully booked and brimming with adventure… and more snow! After suffering several lack work years, work came like buses and I said YES to it all. So right from the get go I was aware of pacing myself. I worked full time for a couple of weeks, balanced deadlines with new ventures, took on a new role and celebrated Mr G’s birthday, Valentine’s and other family celebrations and finished the month off with a Poetry Festival! Perfect! This is certainly one of the longest review posts for a while, you may want to munch through it in several sittings!
The first day of the month threw treasure at me, I started a new course with Tawnya Renelle – Experimenting with… it was inspiring as ever and started me in a new direction with some material I have been chewing over for a while. I even created a sketch! There is a shiny new website/platform and lots of resources to get my teeth into (especially now I have finished chewing)!
I also had some happy news hit the inbox, after a two year hiatus (health + pandemic) I am back with the DAN team supporting them with an online Poetry Extravaganza again. AND…. last year I completed the Poetry Renewed Project and my commission with Elephant’s Footprint to produce 10 animated Poetry Films. One of these, ‘Territory’ has been shown at the ReelpoetryFestival in Houstonthis month (24th Feb.) – the joy is abundant! https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2021/02/27/reelpoetry-festival-houston-tx/
I made some submissions with close deadlines and applied for more work. Which was time consuming and exciting. I had proof copies of Recoil 12 back from MullaMulla Press, I had a poem accepted by Literary AlchemyPress, an online magazine I discovered last year. They have taken a poem I wrote in an Angela France workshop and one I am particularly fond of. In addition to that, by publishing it they have become an International Press, which is brilliant for them!
Connect Dudley, (a project I was commissioned for back in May 2020 during the 1st Lockdown) is coming to the third leg. Rick Sanders facilitated community workshops where participants wrote letters over several weeks, in the 2nd leg Rick and I turned these letters into poems and shared them with the participants. We also completed an interview with the funders, CoLab and recorded audio of our work (which is connected to the High Street poems via QR codes).
Rick is now in possession of some very shiny and graphically exciting posters of the poems which will go up in empty shops in Dudley’s High Street over the next 5-10 weeks and I am booked for a reading later this month which will be a webinar and Q&A. It was a wonderful project that has helped many people and I am honoured to have been a part of it.
I caught an interview withCasey Bailey – Birmingham Poet Laureate, on Midlands News, which made me happy and I had my final workshop class with Zelda Chappel. It was on Life and Death – so not a light subject but it was a wonderful few hours, I have loved being part of this group and the work we have covered has uncovered some of those poems that have been living inside me. Now the hard work begins to get them fully formed.
I would recommend Zelda’s classes they are great fun and she has a wonderful way of facilitating 2 hours of intense writing and reading in such a relaxed and caring way you leave in a state of cleansed tiredness, definitely lighter and happier and with ink that is worth page space. It has been a January/February highlight. You can book the full course of just choose a week that you feel pulls you in. Most of our group did all 4 sessions. I first met Zelda through Jo Bell’s 52 project back in 2014, we read at the same event in London and have been following each other ever since. Do check out her poetry.The Girl in the Dog tooth Coat by Zelda Chappel.
I had the pleasure of attending a Book Launch, Nature at a Cost a first collection for Annie Ellis. I was tired but I wouldn’t have missed this Launch for the world. I am delighted for Annie. It was a lovely to watch her excitement as Guest Readers shared some of their own poetry and read poems picked from new collection. Annie’s Special Guests were Ben Ray, Anna Saunders, Zoe Brooks and Ankh Spice.
I recently discovered we landed in poetry around the same time, when I first met Annie (back in 2015), I thought she was an established writer. Annie’s collection has been described by Ankh Spice as ‘a clarion call to find the edges we have forgotten’, and by Ben Ray as ‘a haunting love letter to the natural world’.
The weekend saw more events and workshops withRedwing, Rakaya Fetuga & Sarah L. Dixon. Nine Arches Press celebrated the launch of Jacqueline Saphra‘s One Hundred Lockdown Sonnets. I watched the conception of this back in 2020 and have read a good number of Jacqueline’s sonnets, several poets joined her but most managed 80 something sonnets. This is not just another collection of Lockdown thoughts and poems, these are sonnets that in years to come will form a historical record and someone suggested may linger in our heads like lines of Shakespeare’s sonnets. It was also a treat to hear her Guest Poets: Anja Konig, Miriam Nash, Jacob Sam-La Rose and video readings from Ian McMillan & Naomi Shihab Nye.
If you missed it you can treat yourself now.
Sunday saw a warm gathering for Live from The Butchery and some stunning performances by: Annie Freud, Jane Burn & Anja Konig. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and it felt like the perfect end to the weekend, except there was more!
I have a few favourite landing places in America that I’ve discovered throughout the lockdowns and many offer free events. I am lucky enough to be working again but after the past 2 years the surplus spends are absorbed by previous bills so I am still not in a position to pay booking fees let alone ticket costs. Which is a great shame as there are lots of opportunities around at the moment – including a workshop with Carolyn Forché at the Kendal Poetry Festival. A festival I will get time to write about soon as I’ve spent an amazing 9 days with Clare Shaw and Kim Moore to complete the month!
I spent an inspiring night with Carolyn Forché & Lori Soderlind, thanks to Hudson Valley Writers Center. It was a deeply moving and inspiring event and I loved both readings. I have become a big fan of Carolyn’s work over this pandemic year. I received an order for In the Lateness of the World (Penguin Press, 2020) for Christmas and it should be arriving next week!
Carolyn Forché is an award winning author of poetry and prose. Renowned as a “poet of witness,” Carolyn Forché is the author of five books of poetry. Her most recent collection, In the Lateness of the World (Penguin Press, 2020), is a tenebrous book of crossings, of migrations across oceans and borders but also between the present and the past, life and death.
I loved discovering Lori and the story behind her work.
I wrote a proposal which took a lot longer than I expected. I’ve written a few applications this year and one of these was for Mass Poetry Festival in May. I was keeping my fingers crossed for a positive outcome on this and gathering some of the poets together again. Unfortunately it was rejected via a very kind email. Four years ago I started my Laureate Legacy Project (2017), a Transatlantic poetry exchange with Worcester, UK and Worcester MA, A Tale of Two Cities. You can read all about it here. And read the publication, Special Issue of Contour here. Many of the poets have gone on to republish their poems in other anthologies and collections.
In the UK we launched the project at Droitwich Arts Festival 2018 as part of the Poetry Extravaganza event, USA had an event at The Sprinkler Factory in September and then in 2019 it was part of the Evesham Festival of Words. I had hoped to role out a lot more with this massive project, there were plans but due to health issues and then COVID nothing has happened since. Evesham was booked in the summer of 2018 when I was 100% fit and not expecting an operation, it was only through the support of friends that I managed to get to the Festival and undertake the organisation of the event. So when I saw the call for MASS Poetry Festival I thought it was destiny! The application took some time, I was delighted to obtain a reference and all was well. I have been checking the inbox for a while. Maybe more opportunities will present themselves. Due to the pandemic I am back in touch with the WCPA who provided the rich American pool of poets for this project. So maybe when I am less busy I can organise something myself.
I missed the Cafe Writers Competition Winner Readings with Helen Ivory (Judge), I thought I had booked a ticket, I had registered interest in the event but not got a ticket. I was a actually double booked so would have missed the start of it, but kicked myself for not keeping tabs. This is overwork tiredness. It continued the next day. I had booked for a presentation (one which was recorded) and decided by the time I made it home I was too tired for any screen time. I forgot I have a Tuesday night class at 9PM (in USA) and was asleep before 7:30 pm. This week I have been putting the finishing touches together for Mr. G’s Lockdown birthday and Valentine’s Day as well as working on projects, writing applications and advertising copy.
Midweek I managed to attend Sheffield Libraries workshop, it was a writing week filled with food. Tawnya’s Experimenting with… class on Monday was Food and this Recipes and Memories workshop, facilitated by the wonderful Central Librarian, Claire Walker, links to a project later in the month. I spent a couple of hours in good company recollecting all sorts of stories that were decades thick in dust. It was inspiring and I hope to write up a couple of poems. It was also nice to see some of my 52 Poetry friends at the workshop and everyone shared such inspiring memories that many of us left with pages and pages of notes after the 2 hour workshop finished. At Midnight there was a USA reading, but I was asleep long before then.
On Thursday it was Worcester SpeakEasy, it was a wonderfully tender and entertaining evening, which included an impromptu ‘hat off’, bountiful love, valentine and non-valentine poems and we had a band too! I finished working full time and celebrated with Wolverhampton Literature Festival, Food for Thought poetry cafe, Poet’s Cafe featuring Corrupted Poetry a collective of writers, Nic Stringer, Michelle Penn & Fiona Larkin.
My 2nd proposal written and sent a week ago was acknowledged with an incredibly kind rejection email. They have kept my contact details and had over 3000 applications, they said my detailed pitch was well written, so some upskill desk time & pitching if nothing else. It’s a shame as it sounded like an exciting project to be involved in. Hopefully it has future-paved something!
This weekend was Mr G’s birthday and Valentine’s so I originally avoided booking anything in, until a conversation made me realise that 48 hours with me was not the way he planned to mark the weekend (harsh), so I booked a few bits into the last days of the week. On Saturday I went to Rakaya Fetuga‘s workshop and then the Annual Lucille Clifton Celebration: Today We Are Possible. It was a moving event full of tenderness and power – the best combination, stories and poems and memories of Lucille.
I was glad not to miss Charley Barnes‘ Book Launch for her Poet Laureate Collection, Lore. A collection which feeds more than her obsession with flowers and footnotes. I will be adding a post about this soon.
The Worcestershire LitFest competitions opened and I spent several hours web-building. This week was marked to work on one main project. I managed a few last minute submissions and was looking forward to Cheltenham Poetry Festival who had Kim Addonizio & Christina Thatcher booked. It was an incredible event. Epic in the truest sense of the word. I will be writing February blogposts long into March!
I had a project (which has been postponed) booked in for this week so hadn’t filled the diary. I am spending most of the week working on a manuscript which is due to be submitted. Looming deadlines are always a good reason to set to work. I have been working on this since last year, but decided not to sub it out in the end in the Autumn as I had originally planned. The poems involved have been written since 2019 and I am keeping my fingers crossed. It feels strange as in pre-pandemic times there would have been bountiful events to sell my previous book Patience and I am aware I have stock upstairs, I have sent any interest since March 2020 to the publisher website.
I recently discovered these lunch time readings, PM for UK. A lovely way to finish a day of one workshop, one class and one group.Jennica Harper tender poems touched us all deeply and listening to Frances Boyle force with nature, family, grief was fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to these two Canadian poets. The Q&A was interesting, I love listening to the poet’s process.
Frances Boyle’s first poetry collection, Light-carved Passages was published by Buschek Books in 2014, and her second, This White Nest, by Quattro Books in 2019. She also writes fiction and has published a collection of Short Stories and a Novella.
Jennica Harper is the author of three previous books of poetry: Wood (Anvil Press, 2013), which was shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay prize, What It Feels Like for a Girl (Anvil Press, 2008), and The Octopus and Other Poems (Signature Editions, 2006).
I often miss Cafe Muse nowadays due to work, Canadian events tend to be on in the early hours here in the UK. But I was still awake so I went to listen to the reading series Poets Vs the Pandemic. And I was glad I did, because I got to hear some great poetry from all three poets. Some of the poems were amazing.
Grace Cavalieri is Maryland’s Tenth Poet Laureate. She’s written 22 books and chapbooks of poetry; and 26 produced short-form and full-length plays. Her newest poetry publications are What The Psychic Said (2020;) Showboat,(2019;) and Other Voices, Other Lives (ASP Pub. 2018.) Her latest play was “Quilting The Sun,” Theatre for The New City, NYC, 2019. Grace founded and still produces “The Poet and the Poem” on public radio, celebrating 44 years on-air in 2021. The show’s recorded at the Library of Congress and transmitted via Pacifica Network.
Diane Wilbon Parks founded The Write Blend collective in 2018. She is a visual poet and artist who has published two collections of poetry, and has read widely as a featured poet, radio show guest poet and interviewee on The Poet and the Poem national broadcast from the Library of Congress. Her artwork has been displayed widely. She lives in Prince George’s County, MD.
ROSE SOLARI is the author of three collections of poetry, The Last Girl, Orpheus in the Park, and Difficult Weather, the one-act play, Looking for Guenevere, and the novel, A Secret Woman. She has lectured and taught writing workshops at many institutions, including the University of Maryland, College Park, MD; St. John’s College, Annapolis, MD; and the University of Oxford’s Centre for Creative Writing in Oxford, England. Her awards include the Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize, an EMMA award for excellence in journalism, and multiple grants. In 2010, she co-founded Alan Squire Publishing. Rose Solari lives in Bethesda, MD.
I booked tickets for Rita Dove and Terence Hayes and fell asleep before Jane Hirshfield‘s event Poetry and the Wild with the Natural History Institute. I caught up with a recording of it, another event which deserves an entire blogpost. It’s on the list!
I received some very sad news about our Poets In Motion teacher Celena Diana Bumpus, who passed away along with her mother, Shirley Bumpus. It has been an honour to have known Celena for almost a year, she was a creative person full of light and such a connector in these difficult times. Memorials have been organised. Words are the only fitting way for me to remember her and her generous spirit, spreading love and vision, globally. Her emails bore the signature ‘Be the inspiration the world needs‘. At the end of month I was reunited with classmates via email and we’ve decided to complete the collective unity poem Celena was working with us on.
I recently discovered Live Canon’s Lunchtime Reading Series, I went to the 4th one (I missed the 5th one, which had a great line up as I was at work). I am hoping there may be more in the future. They are just an hour and a perfect poetry lunch. I listened to with Adham Smart, Robin Houghton, Gillie Robic and Laura Theis
Friday night saw the Launch of Kendal Poetry Festival, a fabulous reading from Bernadette Mayer, followed by listening to the winning poems from the Pre-Ralphaelite Society.
The weekend saw the beginning of 9 days of early morning light workshops alternating between Clare Shaw and Kim Moore. These have been wonderful and productive. This weekend saw the first one with Clare followed by a morning with Kim on Sunday. I had a rehearsal for Connect Dudley. I went back to Kendal Poetry Festival for a Workshop and two readings: Hafsah Aneela Bashir, who I discovered last year through the Jerwood Arts events and Jackie Hagan who I have had the pleasure of watching LIVE several times before. Both were incredible events and will appear in my KPF post when I get around to working through the February list!
I finished my Saturday night with Rakaya’s weekly workshop and the Oystercatcher reading, which I was especially pleased to be available to attend as I was missing Vahni Capildeo at KPF. It was a powerful night of work with: Lee Duggan, Zoe Skoulding & Vahni Capildeo.
Sunday saw me back at Kendal Poetry Festival for the early morning writing session with Kim Moore and a reading from These Are the Hands the NHS anthology which came out last year. I will write more on this event. I spent the day building websites, workshops and going to Claire Dyer‘s Book Launch of Yield and trying to squeeze every last drop of freedom from the night. Then that was my week off work, gone.
I was back at work, missed deadlines, completed a week at Kendal Poetry Festival, made a performance/event video (not done one of those for a while), did some classes, had an emotional Worcester 42 in tribute to Kieran Davis, we all shared some of his poems and our memories of him, it was a moving experience. By Wednesday it was all I could do to stay awake after work, I had a fun reading event with Rick Sanders to launch the Connect Dudley Exhibition and had an animation shown in the REELpoetry Festival the same day.
On Thursday I managed to get to a Finding the Words, to hear readings from Gaia Holmes, Natalie Rees and Miles Salter.
It was a great reading and I listened to some inspiring, humour filled and new (to me) poetry which I loved. Kirsten Luckins also had her Book Launch with Guest Readers, it was a real treat to see her in a real book shop!
After work on Friday I managed to get to a panel discussion at Kendal Poetry Festival – Rising to the Challenge: Poetry in the Age of Covid, which was brilliant. I had a workshop and a reading cancelled and was relieved as I needed some time away from the desk. Saturday and I FINALLY made it back to Australia to the Perth Poetry Club – that had been a long time coming too. It will be no surprise that most weekends involve waking up later than 6 AM and so I often miss these by the time I surface after a late Friday night (or even an early one). Still just to wound off the month perfectly, I made it! After a great morning of poetry I joined Kim Moore for her final KPF early morning write. I spent most of the time offline and popped on for RakayaFetuga‘s workshop and to be WOWed by the UoB Slam Team! More to follow.
Sunday marks the last day of Kendal Poetry Festival and I got up to write (for the final festive writing) with Clare Shaw. I have a workshop this evening and plan to spend the rest of the day as Sunday’s should be! Feels like I need a big lie down in March! I am taking a more relaxed approach to filling the diary as it is already full with a desk schedule I need to keep and the last month of contracted work.
50 poets in 5 days! It was hard to imagine this festival coming to a close, but like all good things it had to happen sometime and here is where it happened… on a Monday morning, like no other!
Day 5 Monday
To get me over my heartache of losing my roomie, Daljit Nagra had invited me to sit for Breakfast and this was the only day I didn’t have a massive breakfast. Nothing to do with sharing a table with Daljit, more the thought of croissants and bacon sandwiches over at the Brunchfast, that and because the business clients weren’t about after the weekend the breakfast was cooked rather than a buffet.
It was fun and a big, wonderful thanks to Daljit for his generosity on this one.
I checked out and then it was over to the Museum for a final spot of stewarding, which came in the form of waitressing and cashing out books with poets.
10:00 to 11:30 POETRY BRUNCHFAST & FAREWELLRJ Museum Tent-Palace
The festival closes with final croissants and coffee and a few last, remarkable displays from our resident artists and poets. Join us for a lively goodbye, some poetry, coffee and free-range laughter as the tent-palace descends back into the van and we celebrate our 5th poetry festival.
Ticket includes continental breakfast, and maybe bacon… and toast
The Brunchfast was a spectacular affair, besides food and coffee/tea we had final performances from Resident Poets Daljit Nagra, Tania Hershman and Jacqueline Saphra as well as Jinny Fisher and Julia Webb.
It was our final chance to mingle and say our goodbyes.
What better way to spend the weekend than at a poetry festival. Full of energy (and hash browns), I was ready in green for another day in the Tent Palace and Richard Jefferies Museum.
Just like Friday, Saturday kicked off with poetry workshops (after morning meetings for the team).
10:00 to 12:00 WORKSHOP: Blurred Boundaries RJ Museum Tent-Palace
With Tania Hershman
Some poems are also fictions; some stories are also poems. Where does one end and the other begin? We will take a wander through this fuzzy territory, from poem to short story and the weird and wonderful in between.
10:00 to 12:00 WORKSHOP: Being ‘Political’ Holiday Inn
With Daljit Nagra
Some poems can hit you over the head with their political rage, or they can try to persuade you to their vision as the best way ahead. Explore with Daljit some ways in which poetry can deal with contemporary issues but with complexity and subtlety. Participants should expect to have tried to write their own poems of witness in the session.
Knowing it would stretch me – I opted for a 2nd workshop with Daljit Nagra. Another action packed session and more potential poems scribbled in my notebook. A whole sequence on Education materialised.
Then it was back to the Museum for Lunch before the first afternoon event, another open mic, this time with the theme of Happiness and guest spots from Marilyn Hammick and John Mills.
13:00 to 14:00 OPEN MIC: HappinessRJ Museum Tent-Palace
‘Oh god it’s wonderful to get out of bed, drink too much coffee…and love you so much.’ Frank O’Hara
This open mic aims to have everyone leaving the tent palace with a smile on their face. Bring us your joys and your gleefulness. Feel like the sun is shining, even if it’s raining! With special guest readings from Marilyn Hammick & John Mills.
14:30 to 15:30 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.
This was a truly insightful event to attend and some interesting questions were answered.
16:00 to 17:00 MAD & GLOWRJ Museum Tent-Palace
Mad & Glow are Jacqueline Saphra and Tania Hershman, but they refuse to tell who is who. However, they do promise to entertain you with brazen stories in poem and prose from each and both; a confederacy of words from a world that contains mad mothers and glowing jellyfish, kisses and war, salt, light and a few waterlilies.
This was an interesting event which will appear again next February at the Verve Festival of Poetry & Spoken Word in Birmingham. I feel a little honoured to have been part of the first outing and had a jam sandwich to boot!
Another thing I love about Poetry Swindon is the action on feedback. Last year the only thing missing was somewhere to sit. So they created the bar area for refreshments outside, plenty of picnic tables, relocated the Tent Palace and the old tea room/book shop became a whole room to chill out in, with gingham tablecloths littered with poetry magazines. Sarah and I dip into some our poems made it into and some they didn’t.
Christina Newton – Organiser Battered Moons
19:00 to 21:00 BATTERED MOONS RJ Museum Tent-Palace
With Malika Booker
Battered Moons 2017 will be celebrating seven winning poets and their poems, with dazzling poet Malika Booker handing out the prizes and reading from her own work. Malika is a Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow at the University of Leeds and chair of the Forward Prizes for Poetry 2016. Her Malika’s Poetry Kitchen has inspired models from Delhi to Chicago.
The evening will include a musical treat brought by the outstanding voice of Caitlin Eastham and her band.
A spectacular event (to almost round off the evening) with music, winning poems and Malika Booker (who I first discovered at Ledbury Poetry Festival this year), a woman with a heart as big as Poetry Swindon. It was lovely managing a quick chat with her later in the evening.
The final event of the evening was a musical one, much acclaimed and my late night bar duty.
21:30 ‘til late LATE NIGHT TOAST SPECIAL RJ Museum Tent-Palace
Keith James in concert – The Songs of Leonard Cohen
With a lifetime reputation of performing and an undying love of the ‘pure song’ Keith James gives you a concert of Cohen’s amazing material in the most intimate and sensitive way imaginable, exposing the solitary inner strength of his greatest songs in their original perfect form.
‘Some of the most atmospheric and emotive music you will ever hear.’
You can catch Keith James here.
This event was thoroughly enjoyed by all in The Tent Palace of Delicious Air and those of us outside it. *
After a late night bar, we finished late… later than the night before. The Late Night Special finished later than any other event on the schedule, the start scheduled at the time most events finished. Then there was the bar… then after the last festival goers had gone to bed… the team celebrated Sarah L. Dixon’s pre-Birthday, Birthday! Somewhat of a new tradition having managed to have her big, special birthday on her final day in Swindon last year. There was cake and beer.
*This year… Sarah started the celebrations before Battered Moons Event…
Tony Hillier loves any excuse to dance, after we all went to bed on Friday, he went out clubbing… so two late nights in a row for this man who could teach us all a thing or two about partying!
By the time Keith James took to the stage there was a competing house party in the Museum! And like all good parties it happened in the kitchen, no. The bathroom! Pizza had been ordered and merriment was on the agenda.
I had been outside manning the bar, but realising the games were afoot inside and attempting to go and soundproof the venue, I discovered the epicentre of the party on the landing and you know, these are once in a lifetime moments (like sharing barn hammocks with Angela France and Jo Bell in 2014).
At the officially organised pre-birthday/last night party there was a dance floor, a special mix tape that Hilda had compiled, the Swindon Dog, Poetry Pram balloons and plenty of dancing feet. It was a marvellous, strange, fun night. One that finished just 5 hours before we had to be up again. Sarah herself was having to leave the next day, which had to be an easier exit than workshops, events and stewarding… something to bear in mind when the Dancing Queen pulls this again!
When a party starts after Midnight… we eventually made it to bed with a few hours to sleep before morning alarms!
After a wonderful morning at Artsite… we all headed back to the museum.
These hats, like Jinny’s balloons feature heavily throughout the Festival!
Back at the Richard Jefferies Museum we had a whole afternoon and evening of events to enjoy and of course – for the team, chores and jobs we needed to get used to quickly.
16:00 to 17:00 POETRY LECTURE RJ Museum Tent-Palace
In this special lecture, From The Supernatural To The Surreal, Christopher Eddy, philosopher and poet, traces the journey from the one to the other in poems by W.B.Yeats and Dylan Thomas.
Christopher Eddy provided a lecture, whilst Stephen, Gram and myself busily started preparing for our performance at 5:30 PM.
I was incredibly nervous and felt I needed more than an hour to get my head swapped to performance mode, I needn’t have been so nervous. It was an exceptional event, I am not just saying that because it was our event! People were still talking about it several days later.
17:30 to 18:30 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.
Stephen Daniels, the most local poet amongst our formation, read from his recently published pamphlet Tell Mistakes I Love Them, then Gram Joel Davies read from his collection Bolt Down This Earth and finally I took to the ‘Blue Gate’ home-made by the marvellous handy man, Mike Pringle, lectern to read and perform poems from Fragile Houses.
Poetry Swindon was the first festival where I sold my pamphlet last year when it was fresh off the publishers line. I was delighted to have an official space on the book stall again this year along with my fellow V. Press poets.
We had a great event which was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience.
Then it was time to don the green uniform (RJ T-shirts) and get back to work serving supper before the final show of the day. One I was very much looking forward to as it featured all 3 Resident Poets and I am a big fan of all of them.
20:00 to 21:30 READINGSRJ Museum Tent-Palace
Daljit Nagra, Tania Hershman & Jacqui Saphra, our resident poets, perform from their
new work and most recent collections. Plus music from young singer and poet Olivia Tuck.
Hilda Sheehan introduced the event and poets.
Olivia Tuck shared her music and then three poets wowed a tent palace and demonstrated why they are this year’s resident poets.
It was a magical evening and a great first night at the festival. I wish I could review it all in more detail, but it was a long while ago and nothing but the emotions stay fresh in my memory. By the end of the 5 days that was Poetry Swindon, I was struggling to remember my name!
I know that I have read and heard Daljit’s work a lot in the past three years and always want to hear it again, it is never quite the same when I read it from the page. I know that I first met Tania Hershman years ago, officially in 2014 at Poetry Swindon when Jo Bell was the resident poet and Tania insisted she was a short story writer and not a poet… fast forward a few years, she has had her first collection published by Nine Arches, so I think Jo was right on that one! Jacqueline Saphra I had the pleasure of meeting just a week before Poetry Swindon, in London at Free Verse, the Poetry Book Fair (which I also need to blog still). I thoroughly enjoyed her reading and discovering more of her work.
Traditionally after every final event Hilda and the team provide FREE toast. That was an experience for us new to the team. The bar remains open and we were serving until bed time.