Tag Archives: Paula Varjack

My Poetry Day Thursday 20th February


Today started with Poetry for Lunch, the wonderful lunchtime feast of words, organised by Jan Watts every week. I was at the first few, including the launch on January 9th and now I have to work Thursdays and can only make the school holiday dates… so my next Poetry For Lunch won’t be until Easter – at least it may have stopped raining by then! lit7

Today was ‘suitable for children’ as we hoped lots would be around the library – I took public transport into the city and wrote my poem on the way in!

A lovely children’s poem about Baby Owls.

It was sunny all morning and still blue skies as I walked to the library in my winter coat…. no sooner had I got ready to perform than the heavens opened and I had to put my coat back on – I was worried about my hair going frizzy before the evening performance.

It was lovely to see Jan again and I had fun, even though there was only time to perform one poem this week.

William Gallagher has also been trying to make one of these performances and today he had a meeting at the library and was able to stay and watch the performances. great to speak to him after and catch up briefly.

imagesCA11997Y I was then lucky enough to spend the entire afternoon with new(ish) poetry friends. I feel a little bad, as I was mostly a bag of nerves (as I had attempted to learn my poems off by heart and was thinking about the performance, not drinking, attached to the time, fanatical about checking the time, panicking about being late etc. etc.)

It was good to sit and chat – so often all that is confined to the interval!

This evening I took the biggest leap in performance terms and learnt a lot at my first ever Hit the Ode event! hit 1

My attempt to perform from memory went wrong and the words I had practised and managed for the past 24 hours, fell out of my head, flustered I came off stage to grab my paper and read the poems…. I completely messed up, I was mortified and have never felt so bad about a performance, not since I was a child… but I was able to save the set – and got positive feedback on the poems and my recovery.

Fortunately (for me) it is no longer the vogue to perform from heart and many headline acts still read – or at least have the text in front of them somewhere to use. I knew I should have used my hands as prompts… a few ink reminders.

It was also lovely to see Julie Boden again and meet Ann Porro and Paula Varjack, they each lit up the night with fabulous headline sets!

I bought Ann Porro’s book, with free doggy! Mingled and chatted after the great night and then headed home – or to the bus stop at least – having bought my return ticket.

I had 15 minutes, I got to the stop – double checked timetable I had already checked earlier and there in the FAINTEST print it had a little 1 and the footnote FRIDAY only *(in reference to the last bus home 11:20pm which I guess has been cut because there is never anyone on it until the weekend!)

I had to run to the train station and make a snap decision on the platform – the train went to 2 different stations near (a taxi) home…. I chose the 1st one, thinking there was more likelihood of taxis or a rank. There were neither. I walked to a local hotel and asked them to phone me a taxi – by now the battery in my phone is dead – because I have also spent some time on the phone with estate agents and they may have sold my house. (A week after we went in and kicked up a fuss, funnily enough!)

The taxi was called – someone else jumped into it – the firm was called again – eventually half an hour after we called – the place I was is small enough to drive end to end in 10 minutes my taxi appeared, then I was charged more than the suggested fee as it was after midnight – I wanted to argue against this but I was too tired and just wanted to get in at the time! And it wasn’t a massive amount compared to the total expense of the day – it is NOT cheaper than driving and parking and tomorrow’s gig I will be driving to. Tomorrow is actually later on today and I still have to write the poems for the event!

Lessons I learnt today; imagesCAH8TZHF
1) Drive to ALL gigs
2) Read my poetry – I am not yet ready to perform from heart
3) DON’T tell taxi drivers you have had a drink they will charge more!!
4) I am overweight but when a wonderful poet performs a set about Nutella – I will inevitably end up eating it on toast
5) Nutella is a bit messy for typing!
6) Read …the small print on bus timetables that state in a tiny faded 1 – only on Fridays!
7) Buy single tickets – the likelihood is you will not return (at least not the same way)
8) I need help!
9) The journey is part of the adventure…
10) That none of the above matters when you have had a fantastic day out with great people! inkspill gal at desk

Desk Day – Writing Poetry, Learning Poems and Calming Butterflies!


I have spent time today learning my set for tomorrow night. No new material being written for my first set at Hit The Ode, but all of it to be performed by heart. Watching the YouTube videos I see a range of styles and some people taking printed word onto the stage (as is the norm for most spoken word/ open mic nights) – they are all poems I have performed before in Cheltenham and Worcester. I have in the past 5 months of performing attempted different material at each event, aware that the poetry world is a small one and the audience is often shared.

However, if I am going to hone and polish my performance this would be a very tall order every time. Besides I have come to realise that some people like to hear material being repeated.

I have learnt half my set, the other half I am a little shaky on – sounds impressive in a morning – but it is only 3 poems long!

I am spending a lot of time addressing the butterflies in my tummy and working through household chores by way of avoiding the reality of my day before the big one.

Hit the Ode is a major event, international acts are booked each month and Julie Boden is one of the big names on stage tomorrow. Which is great because she inspires me, but I also know she is watching…. it was her night in Leamington, last October when I picked up the mic again after 15 years away from spoken word events. 17 weeks later she will hear how I have been getting on as well as tales of unconditional commitment, cakes and the Tube!

In addition to all this preparation, I am also attempting to write new material for the Poetry for Lunch event which (being half term) need to be child friendly or child centred!

I am leaving Friday poetry until Friday – a little risky but Najma now has 15 performers so we only get a 5 minute slot, that’s 2 poems possibly 3 and I already have The Fourth Wall to perform.

hit 1 Hit the Ode is a night many ‘proper poets’ (published, successful, no ‘day job’ poets) have been loudly encouraging me to go and do! I am hoping that the audience is a kind one and that I have prepared a wide enough range of poems to suit the tastes of many….




Hit the Ode brings the most exciting poets from the region, the country and the world to the heart of Birmingham. Join us! We have poems. Poems which vibrate when they have a message for you. Poems with cheese and gravy. Poems which may be slightly uncomfortable, but make you look great. Good poems. Come and get them!
Featuring Julie Boden.
A former teacher, and Creative Advisor, Julie Boden has for the last ten years worked full time as a poet. She is Midlands based and travels nationally and internationally delivering workshops, conducting readings, performing, lecturing and judging poetry competitions. Julie is a Birmingham Poet Laureate (2002-2003), Director of Poetry Central, Poet in Residence at Symphony Hall, a Director of Warwick Words festival.
Based in the Midlands, Julie travels nationally and internationally delivering workshops, conducting readings, performing, lecturing, mentoring and judging poetry competitions.
Ann Porro
Ann Porro writes deadly serious comic poetry, blues monologues and oblique observations on the outlandish nature of ordinary existence. She is Tyneside Cinema’s Open Slam Champion 2011, SLAMalgamate 2014 winner, and regularly performs at venues all over the North-East. Her first collection, ‘Letter From an Unknown Dog’, was released by Zebra Publishing in May 2013. “From the real to the surreal in the turn of a page!” Live Theatre Newcastle “Her poetry, like the public performances of her work is energising, sometimes humorous and always entertaining.” Jeff Price, Editor, Zebra Publishing
Paula Varjack
With her Berlin postcode, Ghanaian mother, British Father and dual nationality (British/American), it’s probably easiest to say Paula is from a lot of places, but particularly London, Washington Dc and Berlin. Trained as a filmmaker in London, she ran away from her career in television, to pursue documentary filmmaking in Berlin. Within months she emerged as a performance poet (she’s not quite sure how it happened either) She is as likely to perform at a gallery or cabaret night, as at a poetry slam. 

and… me! 🙂