Tag Archives: Verve Poetry Festival

November Review

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November – one step closer to the end month! Where did 2017 go? It is true, the older you get the more time flies. Most of this month’s review will read like a gig list.

I am delighted to have started creating again, writing beyond commissions. I have also submitted poetry for the first time since the Spring (although three poems made it out in September).

Exciting news landed in my inbox about awards & festivals, on the back of the Hanbury Hall Poetry Project (WPL) I have started collaborating with a local artist, Stephen Evans and after a fallow period of being very busy but feeling disconnected, I feel better. Gliding rather than flapping towards December.

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Week 1 

Started at Bottles, Worcester for Uncorked without Holly Daffurn this month, but the reigns were taken by Joe. It was an enjoyable evening and I got to sit on a table with two journalists from the Local Paper – we had some great conversations about poetry.

I knew only half of the Headliners, I always enjoy it when I do not know the acts. I hadn’t seen Glyn Phillips a.k.a Armitage Spode for ages so it was good to catch up with him and I have never seen him perform with a Beatboxer, Fred Hanbury was AMAZING! As I left the gig I was about to tell him as much, but he disappeared swiftly on a skateboard (of course), I have never felt so old!

Melanie Branton was great, I loved her language play. Scott Cowley a.k.a Rusty the Goat Poet, I have had the pleasure of watching at Spoken Trend, great to hear a whole set from him and Raja Khan blew me away. I discovered later he is fairly new to performing his poetry publically – which is something I would not have guessed. The depth of his work was eye-opening to a world I do not know well.

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MELANIE BRANTON

Melanie Branton took up spoken word in 2014 at the age of 46. She won the 2015 Bristol regional final of the Hammer and Tongue slam and the 2017 Bristol regional final of Superheroes of Slam, has appeared at WOMAD, Bristol Harbour Festival and Cheltenham Poetry Festival and took a one-woman show about not having a boyfriend to the Edinburgh Fringe this year. Her debut collection, “My Cloth-Eared Heart”, is published by Oversteps Books and her mixture of comic verse and serious confessional poetry has made her a popular headliner in the South West. She still doesn’t have a boyfriend. “When I first saw Melanie perform a set in Bristol, I was laughing out loud and leaning in on the edge of my seat intently to hear more all in the space of 20 minutes. A fantastic poet with a great mix of dry humour and real-life heart and emotion.” – Harry Baker “Melanie Branton is an unexpected poetry slap. The kind that makes your face tingle and your eyebrows sky rocket. She is funny, clever, ironic, dry, gripping, needed and you won’t see her coming until she is standing in your face.” – Liv Torc

RUSTY THE GOAT POET

Scott Cowley (aka Rusty Goat the Poet) Born in 1972, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear. He began to meander south at an early age (hence the lack of northern twang) His poetry touches on subjects relating to Life, Crisis, Love and Discovery. He finds the whole experience of writing and performing his poetry very cathartic. Scott tries to scratch pen across pulp on a daily, if not weekly basis, and will continue to do so until the ink runs dry.

RAJA KHAN

Raja Khan is a poet, philosopher and entrepreneur from Pakistan who came to the UK 4 years ago and has been writing poetry for the past 12 years, but only started performing 2 months ago. The melodic poetry that Raja performs is tightly composed and revolves around social, religious, cultural and political issues. Most of the inspiration for structure and rhythm is drawn from the classic poetry as that of Shakespeare, Blake, Wordsworth and Auden etc. Raja is direct in his admiration for the human spirit and progression, while highlighting his disdain for dogma and regressiveness through employing metaphores and a strong narrative style.

ARMITAGE SPODE

Armitage Spode describes himself as “part-time poet, half-time hedonist and full-time philanderer”. Mrs Spode describes him as “a very silly man who ought to get a proper job if he knows what’s good for him…”. With his ribald rhymes and saucy odes Armitage brings his old-fashioned Music Hall style of verbal entertainment to Worcester for one night only. Which is just as well – the good burghers probably won’t let him back through the city gates after this. With singalong choruses, a moustache large enough to make a grown woman weep and more innuendos than you can stuff inside a burlesque dancer’s corset, Armitage Spode will salaciously expound upon such subjects as Britain’s baked goods heritage, the British love of pets and why moustache wax is the new Viagra. Mary Berry and Barbara Woodhouse would most certainly not approve. Salvador Dali and Terry Thomas probably would. Armitage Spode: utter filth, served with finesse . . . Huzzah!!

© Uncorked

DAlma© Deborah Alma

 

I spent an amount of time with event background work this week. I received running orders from Peter Sutton for the Elgar Poetry Event, worked with the Jinney Ring in attempting to secure a reading of Sculpture Workshop work and discussing the exhibition and working with Rosie Philpott organising the Art side of the Hanbury Hall Poetry reading. I also had two Talks to prepare.

On Monday I went to Worcester University to do a poetry talk to the Creative Writing Society. This was my second talk and I have to say they are an enjoyable experience. With a teaching background I am not phased by public speaking. As with all these bookings there is lots to do in preparation and of course I got lost on Campus. I had a good evening and it brought back memories of oh, too long ago! As WPL I was impressed to receive at least one student submission on the back of this meeting. I wish CW Societies had existed when I was at uni.

 

© Worcester University

 

Week 2: 

Started with a treat, HOWL. It has been too long since I made it over for this event and Sophie Sparham (who has a book launch soon) had 2 nights of gigging in Birmingham. I missed Stirchley Speaks the night before and WAS NOT going to miss her again. I first met Sophie when we both Headlined Howl on the same night (still one of my favourite gigs), she is amazing, her work has more depth beyond the depth and she speaks honestly and openly about many topics that don’t get the word-time.

Joining her was Hannah Swings, a poet I have heard lots about who I had missed out on since my lost time in Birmingham, I used to be connected to the circuit more before they started digging up all the roads and building on my parking spaces. That and being a PL of an entire county which is some 35 miles away and not being able to afford petrol/train fare… the list goes on, but Birmingham, I miss you!

Ben Fagan was celebrating his birthday – so we all ended up wearing party hats. His work treads that fine thread balance beam from being so sad you almost cry and making you laugh and whoop loudly. It was a brilliant set.

I left this night feeling like I haven’t felt in a long time. I was electrified. The atmosphere of Howl is amazing. Roller coaster adrenaline all the way home and into the next day!

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Ben Fagan

Ben Fagan is a spoken word poet and producer from Aotearoa New Zealand, currently based in London. He is a TEDx performer and organiser, and has shared his work across the UK, USA and NZ. Ben has taken two poetry shows to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and tweets for Apples and Snakes. Alongside UK Slam Champion Sara Hirsch, he won the Edinburgh Fringe Anti-Slam and came second in the national finals, making them the second-worst poets in the UK.

Hannah Swings

Hannah Swings is a noun, not a verb. She is a writer, teacher, artist and lover of anything vintage. Born and raised in Birmingham, she’s currently studying for a Masters in Creative Writing at UoB, but has a background in community theatre and likes to dabble across all artistic platforms. When performing, Hannah’s ‘haunting yet hopeful’ storytelling spans themes such as identity, relationships and mental health, exploring her inner narratives through ephemeral, witty and illustrative visions.

Hannah spends her days teaching secondary and sixth form students that it is okay to be messy. Her handmade poetry postcards have recently celebrated the power of the everyday; something she’s fascinated by, and she continues to facilitate workshops surrounding this. [She can also quote the whole of Mean Girls and finds it fundamentally strange if someone is not a dessert person.]

Hannah has performed with Tongue Fu, featured at Stirchley Speaks and Upstairs at The Western, and at BOM, the Old REP, REP Birmingham, Derby Theatre, Oxjam Fest and mac, amongst others. She featured on BBC Radio West Midlands discussing the power of community when creating art and is an alumnus of both the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain and Beatfreeks YSC cohort 2017.

She believes good things come to those who make.

Sophie Sparham

Sophie Sparham is a performance poet and writer from Derby. Represented by Tom Ashton, she is currently editing her second young adult sci-fi and fantasy novel.

Her poetry mainly focuses on political and social subjects, such as depression, LGBT and women’s issues. She has performed all around the UK; including festivals such as Y Not and the Opera House Stage at Rebellion, the UK’s biggest punk festival.

Sophie’s work has appeared in the People’s History Museum in Manchester, as part of the exhibition ‘Loitering with Intent’. Last year she was featured as one of the UK Young Artists with her collection ‘Dead Air: If they won’t place us in the history books, we’ll write our own stories’. This allowed her to perform poetry in unusual places from market halls to libraries, educating people about forgotten revolutionary figures from history.

© HOWL

SE JEFF AMY

The following evening I went to SpeakEasy, Amy Rainbow and Jeff Cottrill were Headlining. It is unusual to have two headliners at SpeakEasy and it was fabulous.

I love watching Amy and it has been so long since I saw her in action. It was a pleasure. Heartfelt and humorous, another performer who balances well.

Jeff Cottrill is from Canada his set was lively fun to watch. I always enjoy the work of International poets and try to catch them when I can. It’s a big world out there!

Amy Rainbow and Jeff Cottrill are two celebrated poets and authors with distinctive styles and work that really packs a punch – and this month you have the chance to see both of them. Amy and Jeff will both be delivering a 20 minute performance each on the evening so for a chance to see two stellar poets in action, come on down to SpeakEasy and settle in for an evening of crackin’ entertainment. 

© SpeakEasy

It was certainly crackin’ and entertaining! Lots of great open mics too and I managed to bag a 6 minute slot, although I had to pretend to be Steve… this was okay, I had taken my moustache poem, it deserved an outing, last performed at Kieran’s Kings & Queens of Comedy night back in January.

 

 

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Friday saw my 2nd talk of the week, this time for Worcester’s U3A group. It was an honour to be the first guest speaker and I felt relaxed talking about all things Laureate. The questions from the groups were focused and I hope my answers were too. I also did a quick write exercise using juxtaposition which produced some wondrous poems. I also heard some of their writing too. A valuable experience and as a bonus I walked away with a few new ideas of my own.

 

 

Saturday saw an Elgar Poetry Event at the Elgar School of Music. What I really loved about all this that despite all the shared emails, we did not see each other’s sets. It was joyous to listen to them and Peter Sutton deserves lots of credit for his skillful weaving of our work. The flow was there between Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Elgar, Alice, Youth, Old age, Death and interwoven insights from Peter and works of Elgar’s contemporaries. Michael’s reading of W.H Auden nearly sent me over the edge. Moving. Dramatic. Fun. Delightful. A true experience of an evening and as a fundraiser it was successful too.

Read more about it here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/12/elgar-poetry-event/

Peter Sutton, Lesley Ingram, Nina Lewis and Michael W. Thomas.

 

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Sunday I spent time producing WPL Remembrance Anthology to mark Remembrance Sunday. This was my hardest editing challenge yet. Submissions reached over 3 figures, the maybe pile was towering and I only had a couple of days between the deadline and production of the work.

https://worcestershirepoetlaureateninalewis.wordpress.com/2017/11/12/remembrance-anthology/

I am happy with the result and so are the poets who found their work had been placed. It was heartwarming and sad to read all the tributes to family members and unearth the war stories. I was delighted to have had such a response, this was truly an International collection. We have former soldiers, grandchildren/children of the Remembered, heartache, hope and truth blended here.

Here are just some of the things that have been said about it:

What a lovely and extremely moving Remembrance Anthology.

Such wonderful and meaningful poems.

Some lovely poems here. Beautifully put together with images.

It is a beautiful anthology.

 

 

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Monday saw the biggest crowd ever at Licensed to Rhyme with Spoz & Maggie Doyle, standing room only, 17 open mics and Kathy Gee in the Guest Spot and headlined by Ash Dickinson. It was an incredible evening. It was a delight to see the new venue had indeed brought Birmingham people in. The previous venue was technically only 4 miles further out but not close to the stations. I also know how relieved I am when I make the journey the other way and the venue is in the outskirts rather than central city. I also believe we had audience from the village itself, I hope they come again too. I would if it was my village (not smarting at all that my closest venue has decamped)! It is a cracking evening wherever they host it and I do like the new venue.

Ash Dickinson is a performer I have followed for years and I am so delighted he is busy on the circuit, although how he manages it – I think he has wings! His set was a delight. Thoroughly enjoyed by everybody in the room! A blinding night!

 

AWARDS

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Tuesday saw amazing news in my inbox, my publishers are shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award. I shall be keeping my fingers crossed on the 12th December.

http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/michael-marks-awards-shortlisting.html

V. Press is very very delighted to have been shortlisted for the Michael Marks Publishers’ Award…

The pamphlets that V. Press had in for this year are: Alex Reed’s A Career in Accompaniment, Nina Lewis’ Fragile Houses, David Clarke’s Scare Stories and Stephen Daniels’ Tell Mistakes I Love Them.

It’s been a delight to publish these pamphlets and V. Press is very very proud of all its authors – the press is its writers, readers and all those involved with it, including our fabulous poetry covers from V. Press designer Ruth Stacey.

The Awards will be announced at a dinner at the British Library on Tuesday, 12 December, where Sarah Leavesley will be giving a three minute presentation about the V. Press 2016/17 pamphlet list.

© V. Press

Do check out the V. Press website on the Awards link above, they are offering a generous discount on the pamphlets they had in for this year. Read more here

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/17/shortlisted-michael-marks-award/

This wasn’t the only AMAZING news in my inbox. I was also invited to be an International Guest at a Poetry Festival next summer. Of course I started dancing around the room and looking into funding straight away. Then I received a follow up email with the application process. Fortunately most of the CV is up to date since applying for the Reader Residency in July.

The 5 day wait for the committee decision was agonising… my booking was confirmed.

Celebrate the World

All this good news hit my inbox on the same day as the Hanbury Hall Poetry/Art event.

I spent the whole day feeling like a child at Christmas counting down the minutes to my Hanbury Hall Poetry & Art event. Especially after the fortnight’s preparation. Another cracking night, another packed cafe!

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This time for the 2nd part of the Hanbury Hall Poetry Project. Nine poets who took part writing ekphrastic poetry based on the DAN Art Exhibition at Hanbury Hall in October came to share their poems at a special reading where (thanks to Rosie Philpott) we were able to show images of the artwork alongside our poems.

It was a fantastic evening and was even better than I hoped. It was also my last planned event as WPL for 2017. Read more here.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/17/final-wpl-event-of-2017/

 

 

Week 3

The following night Kathy Gee, Maggie Doyle and I journeyed to Cheltenham to Smokey Joes for Poetry Cafe Refreshed. It was lovely to see Sharon Larkin again, it has been too long.

It was an enjoyable evening with a rich variety of poetry and even a few spoken word spots. Kate Noakes shared her incredible poetry and I wish I hadn’t spent my funds on milkshake and wine because I would have treated myself to her books.

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It amazes me that I haven’t come across her before her biography and back catalogue both impressive. I will certainly have an eye out for her and her poetry in the future. I particularly admired the concept of her Tattoo collection.

Her first collection Ocean to Interior, was published by Mighty Erudite Press in December 2007, whilst I was still very much stuck in a full-time teaching career and poetry was way off my radar.

Here latest collection is published by Eyewear and is all about Paris, where she now lives most of the time.

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https://store.eyewearpublishing.com/products/paris-stage-left

 

The following evening I hit Birmingham – for Hit the Ode, which was celebrating 7 years of amazing Spoken Word and Poetry. This special anniversary addition included Birthday cakes, poetry open mic and Regional – Roger Robinson (Northampton), National – Shadè Joseph (London)  and International – Penny Ashton (NZ) Headliners as well as an amazing raffle, no one envied Jack Crowe taking that huge heavy bag of books home, well – we all did a bit!

I was looking forward to seeing Roger Robinson again, my first time witnessing his magic was at Ledbury Poetry Festival. Shadè Joseph & Penny Ashton were new to me and I enjoyed both sets. Shadè’s heavily influenced by music/musicians and Penny’s was humorous, rude, sexy and delightful! I also owe her big time for finding my fiver and train ticket that had fallen out of my pocket earlier in the evening. (Mr G. reminds me to use my purse, I have at least 10!)

It was (as always) an immensely fun evening, the rock world of poetry in my opinion. It was also the German Christmas Market outside so the streets of the city were very much alive at the beginning of the night but had all packed up by the time us late-night Poets made our way home.

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From London, Shadè Joseph
Shadè Joseph is a 23 year old Writer/Musician from East London.
She has been writing/performing poetry and producing, composing and accompanying musicians singer/songwriters and poets for the past four years and worked alongside the likes of London Symphony Orchestra, Ayanna Witter -Johnson, Caleb Femi, Tolu Agbelusi, Tshaka Campbell and Buddy Wakefield. When she’s not doing all of that good stuff she’s probably somewhere laughing or dancing or eating plantain chips or giving someone a hug.

From Northampton, Roger Robinson
Roger Robinson has performed worldwide and is an experienced workshop leader and lecturer on poetry. He was chosen by Decibel as one of 50 writers who have influenced the black-British writing canon. He received commissions from The National Trust, London Open House, The National Portrait Gallery, The V&A, INIVA and Theatre Royal Stratford East where he also was an associate artist.

He was shortlisted for The OCM Bocas Poetry Prize and highly commended by the Forward Poetry Prize 2013. He has toured extensively with the British Council and is a co-founder of both Spoke Lab and the international writing collective Malika’s Kitchen and is an alumni of The Complete Works. His New and Selected Poems is soon to be published on Peepal Tree Press.
He released two albums with Disrupt on every reggae lovers favourite label Jahtari in 2015 and is a founding member of King Midas Sound on Ninja Tune.

From New Zealand, Penny Ashton,
Penny Ashton is New Zealand’s own global comedienne who has been making a splash on the world stage since 2002. She has performed over 600 solo shows and has sold out from Edinburgh to Adelaide to Edmonton. She has represented both New Zealand in The World Cup of Theatresports in Germany, and Australasia in a Performance Poetry Slam Tournament Tour of the UK. She has also performed poetry by invitation at The Glastonbury Festival, her solo musical Promise and Promiscuity at The Jane Austen Festival in Bath and has reported from the Miss Universe Pageant in Las Vegas. 

© HTO

© Penny Ashton Womad, Roger Robinson Twitter, Shadè Joseph You Tube

 

Sparks YW group celebrated Mickey Mouse’s Birthday with a session on Comic Strips/Graphic Novels.

I had the rest of the weekend off with Mr. G.

Monday night saw the V.I.P Launch of the Verve Poetry/Spoken Word Festival. I was invited last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. This year was just as wonderful. The evening included performances from Sean Colletti, Casey Bailey & Liz Berry, who are all featuring in the 2018 programme, which I also got my hands on. Workshops have been booked and I have a festival pass request in with Santa!

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I spent the night whizzing around Waterstones, twirling into people, briefly conversing, hugging & generally enjoying the atmosphere.

My glittery lipstick went down a storm too, although having forgotten the application, I wondered why people were staring at my mouth.

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Read all about it here

I have my tickets booked already and suggest you do the same! The Liz Berry workshop SOLD OUT within 3 days, so glad I bagged my ticket.

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This week also saw a new project get off the ground for WPL. An idea first floated back in July to The Basement Project for some community workshops. I am delighted after meeting the team this morning to have these booked in for Spring 2018.

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The Basement Project is run by volunteers who do very important work and provide support and advice to 16-25 year olds who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. Find out more about them here.

 

Week 4:

I mainly worked on submissions and balancing my time with life offline and out of poetry books/events. I was sad to have to cancel my radio slot with Tammy Gooding on BBC Hereford & Worcester this week.

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Thursday night saw a superb event at Waterstones, Burning Eye Book Launch. Having had less than a week of work this academic year, my funds are definitely in the red and with Christmas Shopping to do I have cut back on both travel and events for December, starting this week. I also feel the need for balance and time at home. I need to re-energise and with this in mind, I was not too gutted when my Friday gig was cancelled.

I finally started to fill in the blog gaps, with my review posts of Poetry Swindon Festival (October).

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https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/24/swindon-poetry-festival-2017/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/24/poetry-swindon-festival-day-1/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/poetry-swindon-day-2/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/poetry-swindon-day-2-evening/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/26/poetry-swindon-festival-day-3/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/27/poetry-swindon-festival-day-4/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/27/poetry-swindon-day-4-festival-finale/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/poetry-swindon-day-5-farewell-brunchfast/

 

I also wrote some Guest Blog posts for Warwickshire Libraries for my Reader in Residence role. My first workshop is next week.

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https://librariesblog.warwickshire.gov.uk/2017/11/24/meet-our-reader-in-residence/

I was saving all my energy for Saturday – and I certainly needed to.

Saturday saw a day at Croome Court for the official Adam Speaks NT project event that I have been involved in with Room 204 since May.

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https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/adam-speaks/

Events started at midday with the official speeches at 3 and the grand opening 3:30 PM

I arrived at 1:30 with plenty of time to take in the events, the Tree House and catch up with people working on the project. I am writing a full review early next week and will add the link back here. There is so much to say about today. A wow day indeed!

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© 2017 Nina Lewis 

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/adam-speaks-the-project/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/adam-speaks-tree-house-launch/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/11/29/adam-speaks-chris-alton/

I also sent lots of submissions this month, finally back in the saddle after 5 months of WPL/Events Management/ Performance work. So far, the inbox has amassed a collection of rejections, I was shortlisted for one anthology, sadly have since found my poems won’t be included. This is the way it goes sometimes. I am okay with that. I am just happy I have started writing and submitting again.

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I also FINALLY started to gather ideas for the next book. I was beginning to think this would never happen. It has happened, it has started, 3 pages of notes and a trawl through current files has set it well on its way.

I missed several events due to lack of funds, time and energy and you know, I am beginning to learn the gentle act of forgiveness for such things. I knew I wanted to wind down a bit in December – necessary as I need to give time to home and family.

One event I did NOT want to miss was Jacqui Rowe’s final Poetry Bites. She has been organising this bi-monthly event for years. She has encouraged over 500 poets in floor spots and 70 Guest Poets too. She has hosted Poetry Bites for over 10 years.

Antony Owen and Jacqui Rowe were the featured poets with 17 floor spots. It was great to hear a whole set from Jacqui, whose collection ‘Blink’ has just been released by V. Press. Antony’s set brought me to tears several times. I would urge you to buy The Nagasaki Elder (V. Press) too. Put them both on Christmas lists, these are books which need to be read.

© Roz Goddard

Poetry Bites will be continuing, in the capable hands of Elaine Christie and Matt Nunn. It will still be the fourth Tuesday of January, March, May, July, September, and November at the Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath.

This week I also secured a school poetry workshop that has been in development since the beginning of October. It will happen in March 2018.

I also took a booking for an event at the Birmingham Midland Institute for May 2018. I really need to get my hands on a new diary, I have a special one on my Christmas List. One I have wanted since 2014. A special Mslexia Diary.

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I also secured  some exciting opportunities for Verve Poetry & Spoken Word Festival. 2018 verve v stickis going to rock!

 

Week 5

Started with clashing events – Spoken Trend in Kings Norton had Casey Bailey and Theo Theobald as the Headliners, but I had already committed to 42 in Worcester. These events always clash, so I try to divide my time between them.

42

42 has been hosted by Polly Stretton for a while now and this year she introduced guest hosts to MC. I have known who the November MC will be and I promised them months ago I would be there. I also wrote my ‘Haunted Castle’ themed poem a month ago too, although having left it to rest I know it needs a bit of editing work.

It was an enjoyable evening after I managed to get there for the 2nd half. The Victorian Christmas Fayre is in town and the car park closest to the venue is fully fun fair! I knew this, I didn’t like to use a multi-storey and as I entered every other available car park I either found them to be full or one car sneaking into the last space. After several circuits of the city and resisting a turn back home, twice(!) I finally parked miles away, with a 20 minute brisk walk back to the venue. It was worth it though. I dusted off ‘The Stanley Hotel’ with newly recorded soundbites too.

Thursday 30th saw me deliver my first workshop as the Reader in Residence in Rugby.

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Which despite finishing planning and researching in October, I used another 7 hours prepping a few days before. This meant end of month submissions were tight. It was a great workshop – blogpost soon.

I also had the opportunity to go a special reading/recording of a new pamphlet, terribly exciting both the anticipation of the launch/book (next month) and also this recording. Claire Walker’s 2nd Pamphlet ‘Somewhere Between Rose and Black’ published by V. Press Launches on 9th December. Yesterday she invited some of us to a closed reading as part of her interview with a BBC Online Journalist. Unfortunately it happened whilst I was out on the road after the workshop*.

Why do so many brilliant things always have to clash? I have had many whole weeks with no work for months since July and now it has finally started to trickle in this happens!

Frustrating. But great that there is so much going on.

*I don’t want this to become an angry blogpost about the state of the roads – but my journey across took over 1hr 40 mins today and parking was once again a problem. Next workshop I am setting out super early!

deb alma xmas© Deborah Alma

December was meant to be a month off but the amount of events in the diary already prove that this will not quite be the case. I am going to start working on my next collection and take at least 10 days off completely just to do Christmas things. Mr G. and I both get a fortnight off work so that should be feasible.

It might take 10 days to get my room Christmas ready!

 

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March in Review

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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!

WEEK 1:

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V. Press collections: Career in Accompaniment by Alex Reed, Book of Bones by Kathy Gee, Fragile Houses by Nina Lewis and 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/

Sam Smith – Reviews in The Journal. http://thesamsmith.webs.com/

It was the final Permission to Speak on the 2nd, headlined by Pete the Temp (who I first saw at Verve).

Pete the Temp is a poet, educator and musician. His work has been featured on BBC radio and TV and in 2009 he became the National Poetry Slam Champion. Pete has toured theatres across England with his one man show ‘Pete (the Temp) vs Climate Change’. In 2015 he completed the MA Writer / Teacher Programme at Goldsmiths University. This led him to become one of the world’s first full-time spoken word educators to be embedded in a secondary school. He later went on to pilot the same work in a primary school. He was subsequently invited to do a TED Talk on the subject ‘Why Every School Should Have a Spoken Word Educator’. Pete has toured all over Europe with his art and now works as a poet and street performer. Rob Francis © 2017

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!’

RELATED LINKS:

http://www.petethetemp.co.uk/

http://burningeye.bigcartel.com/product/numbered-boxes-by-pete-the-temp-bearder

numbered boxes 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.

WEEK 2:

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 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.

spark 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 DeMontfort Book 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.

http://www.mantlelanepress.co.uk/product/kaleidoscope available to buy for just £4.00

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.

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Canterbury never had anything like this when I lived there either!

Week 3:

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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.

The event itself was worth every mile of motorway network and it was a pleasure to headline at the final Quiet, Quiet Loud. You can read my full review here and Rick managed to post his the very next day. https://willisthepoet.wordpress.com/2017/03/15/quietly-does-it/

Huge thanks again to Rick for the lift.

Read the full review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/manchester-quiet-quiet-loud-headline/

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. Verve-web-8-crop-1876x1055

http://www.nscd.ac.uk/verve/

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).

Week 4:

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).

https://www.birminghamliteraturefestival.org/2017/03/will-you-find-a-golden-ticket/

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.

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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. hollie 2 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.

Read the full review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/hollie-mcnish-nobody-told-me/

My review of the Verve Poetry Festival went live on Sabotage Reviews. http://sabotagereviews.com/

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Stanza happened on Friday – for the first time in months I thoroughly enjoyed it – and in a strange way all of our poems were love poems (but not the sort you imagine).

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Over the weekend I celebrated Earth Hour and Mother’s Day. Earth Hour was amazing, I went to the event organised by Worcester LitFest at Café Bliss. You can read the full review here

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/earth-hour-with-wlf/

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Week 5

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.

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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.

http://sabotagereviews.com/2017/03/30/fragile-houses-nina-lewis/

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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!

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/hollie-mcnishs-poetic-motherhood-memoir-wins-ted-hughes-award-518171

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/29/hollie-mcnishs-funny-and-serious-poetry-wins-ted-hughes-prize

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.

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Keep Writing x

Sabotage Reviews – Verve Poetry Festival

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I can now reveal why all went quiet on reviewing Verve Poetry Festival last month… I was writing this review for Sabotage Reviews. I am delighted they have posted it and I will now (when I have time), resume the blog posts before I forget all the details of the events!

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http://sabotagereviews.com/2017/03/25/verve-poetry-festival-16-19th-february-2017/

I am really chuffed to have had the opportunity to write this! Get it in your diaries for next year.

 

February in Review

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There were many exciting ventures this month including the second festival of the year. This time I had a festival pass (bought in November and reimbursed as a Christmas gift) and I intended to use it – and then use half term to recover.

There were also (as always) clashing events and those I missed out on. The dream of a helicopter, boundless energy and time or the ability to teleport, all somewhat in the future.

Week 1

After the madness of end of month submissions and a 16 hour after work stint on the laptop, the month started with a rare night off (which I mainly slept through of course)!

Then Permission to Speak, the wonderful spoken word event and brainchild of Rob Francis. Everyone was excited about Ira Lightman headlining, unfortunately he couldn’t make it. The night that unfolded was the first (that I know of) without a headline act, swiftly repackaged as a ‘Free For All’ with performers allocated more time. As always we were treated to a wide selection of novel extracts, short stories, music and poetry. It was really enjoyable, relaxing and a great tonic after one of the hardest work weeks I have in a while. We all missed Ira and hope he will be able to book in at the Scary Canary in the future. He really should treat himself.

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I spent my first writing day in a week, writing. I also caught up with family and almost burnt the midnight oil as a result. Two new poems, both need some time to bed down and then be mangled through edits, but I am happy with the initial results. It was a tense morning with an idling brain, so I am glad by the time my head hit the pillow, I had accomplished some work. I also discovered new opportunities, some marked for 2018 and some on my TO DO LIST – more on that in the future, especially if I am successful in my endeavours.

When my head hit the pillow I couldn’t sleep. So I treated myself to a poetry book. There are many in the queue and some were gazumped as I picked ‘Beginning With Your Last Breath’ by Roy McFarlane. I planned to only read a few pages. By page 3 my eyes started leaking surprise tears and by page 17 my breath was caught and I knew I would be reading this story cover to cover… and I did. Jolly glad I did too. I slept well afterwards and will be reviewing his debut collection shortly.

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On Saturday Antony Owen had organised a Peace Vigil at Coventry Cathedral, where invited poets were performing 15 minute sets. I was disappointed not to be able to make it as I had a prior booking in Cheltenham. It looked like an amazing experience and I am keeping my fingers crossed that I can be part of another one later this year. I did have a couple of poems read on my behalf. I think it was one of those unique, special events that would have filled heart and mind to abundant levels and I cannot wait to hear all about it.

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Antony Owen was joined by invited poets: Mike Alma, Josephine Allen, Mal Dewhirst, Jacqui Rowe, Ruth Stacey & Janet Smith.

Antony said of the event it is an event for poetry to act as a witness to current world events and respond in acts of articulated remembrance.

antony-owen-by-mal-dewhirstMal Dewhirst © 2017

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Peace Curtain.

Janet Smith © 2017

Saturday night I missed Hannah Teesdale’s Special Open Mic Event in Birmingham as my brain and body had had a full work out and my little car had already driven to Gloucestershire. Both events had a lot of positive social media coverage and it would have been great to reconnect and catch up with people in Birmingham.

And I FINALLY started to read Ash Dickinson’s latest collection ‘Strange Keys’, which I had promised myself would be my Christmas book. I read three Christmas novels over the fortnight and ran out of snug time with poetry. Have made up for that since. Mr G bought me a couple of books for Christmas and I have spent the first part of the year battling through a novel. Which in concept was perfect and I see why he risked the gift. It was hard going both in terms of subject matter and chronology. Now I am on a book break for a bit unless the book contains poetry. I am too busy to catch more than snatches of time and poetry is perfect for that. I thought I had better read the collection before I see Ash again next week. Then I can delight in him performing from it.

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A conversation we had last month inspired an idea for a new poem that I managed to get to draft form this weekend. If I can work through it I think it will make a good performance poem. I love it when poets and their poetry connect to my mind in such a way that they just sow treasure. Plenty of wealth in my pad ready to go when I have a minute.

Week 2

Was set to be a corker. Poetry Alight in Lichfield on Tuesday night with Ruth Stacey (who I missed at the Cathedral) and Ash Dickinson, HOWL on Wednesday in Birmingham with Bethany Slinn, Sean Cottelli and Luke Kennard and SpeakEasy on Thursday with Matt Windle. Followed by important deadlines and Writing West Midlands.

It was a corker indeed. I had one main writing focus this week and all my spare time went into it, most of Monday, late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning before work. I managed to hit the deadline and now am keeping my fingers crossed.

Poetry Alight celebrated a 5th birthday, Gary Longden hosted an extra night this year to celebrate the 5th and the event took place downstairs in the back bar which was lovely. It was brilliant to catch up with everyone and watch in awe as Ruth Stacey and Ash Dickinson performed their headline sets. See the full review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/10/poetry-alight-happy-5th-birthday/

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I had a great time at Poetry Alight, fully absorbed and inspired to write more poetry and to edit the Funeral Pyre one.

HOWL was my next poetry feast, Wednesday evening. It was great to see lots of people I haven’t seen in a while and to watch incredible sets from Bethany Slinn, Sean Colletti and Luke Kennard. The night was on fire and made me feel like I didn’t want to ever extinguish the flame. Leon Priestnall was celebrating too. Howl’s 2nd birthday!

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Read the full review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/11/when-beat-poetry-howls-howl-8-2-17/

My poetry week was not done there, the following evening I went to Worcester for SpeakEasy, Matt Windle was headlining. The night was raucous fun. A wild enticing whirlpool atmosphere that in the end took everyone with it. Some great open mic spots and Matt Windle blew everyone away. He even brought a tear to my eye, a poem I had heard him perform before,  moved me so much tonight. Again a delight to watch the audience who hadn’t seen him before, enjoy his work. Poet with punch indeed, as I said on social media ‘ a w e s o m e – if you look carefully enough you will find Matt between those letters’. He is this year’s Birmingham Poet Laureate and it is great to see him back on the circuit.

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Read the full review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/12/speakeasy-with-matt-man-windle/

To complete my writing week I worked with Writing West Midlands, Spark Writers Group in Worcester at The Hive, where a new Assistant Writer joined us for a one off session, thanks Mollie Davidson.

I also FINALLY read Fergus McGonigal’s first collection cover to cover. It is a great read and it has made me look forward to his next collection even more. Fergus is back on the Spoken Word scene and I hope to catch him soon. fergus-mBuy your copy here.

http://www.burningeye.bigcartel.com/product/the-failed-idealists-guide-to-the-tatty-truth-by-fergus-mcgonigal

Fergus McGonigal takes Ogden Nash’s notion of a poem being an essay which rhymes and targets the unsentimental truth about parenthood, pseudo-intellectual pretentiousness and pomposity, and what happens when the idealism of youth has given way to the disappointment of middle-age. © 2015 Burning Eye Books

Week 3

Mr G’s birthday, Valentines and the much awaited (since the launch party in November) Verve Poetry Festival. verve-pass Unfortunately the weekend clashed with an event at the Swan Theatre in Worcester facilitated by Ben Parker (Poet in Residence). I am hoping he will do a third event as I had to pull out.

I missed Matt Windle and a plethora of other Laureates at the Artrix on Monday as it was Mr G’s birthday and we were celebrating in Birmingham. There were other events but with submission deadlines and an all immersive 4 day festival at the weekend I felt the need to pace myself this week.

I also missed a night of poetry at Smokey Joe’s in Cheltenham.

Thursday couldn’t come soon enough! After work I made my way into the city on the train and arrived at Waterstones for a perfect opening night of the Verve Poetry Festival.

Read the whole story of the Poetry Parlour with Daljit Nagra and Hit the Ode here.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/17/verve-poetry-festival-opening-night/

I would love to stay in the city, but home really is less than an hour away and I want some book spending money. I want to suggest a poet basement next year though. Sleeping bags at the ready! I had a great night with poetry friends and had to wait less than 24hours for the top up!

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The top up came with a wonderful evening of poetry and a bizarre Dice Slam, I loved the concept of this slam. This is the kind of slam I would feel comfortable entering. You can read the full review of the Readings and Dice Slam here. https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/20/verve-poetry-festival-day-2-part-1-kim-moore-mona-arshi-and-katrina-naomi/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/verve-poetry-festival-day-2-part-2-dice-slam-with-apples-snakes/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/27/verve-poetry-festival-day-3/

The weekend was immensely satisfying for my poetry soul and I will add more links when I have reviewed the events. An exciting opportunity arose from this experience too. I am writing a review for Sabotage Reviews. I have included events which I have not yet blogged about, this is another reason why I haven’t gone mad this week attempting to review the remaining events, that and I finally started work on the house. This needs to take priority this year, I will be busy as I started to organise events to perform at two festivals in January and this month took on some marketing/support for another two festivals.

Week 4

I finally read ‘The Glassblower Dances’ by Rachel McCrum, bought at Hit The Ode in 2014, I am slowly working my way through my poetry bookcase! The good news for you is it is back in print, so you could have a copy for yourselves, if you need more persuading it won the Callum Macdonald Award in 2013.

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http://www.kickingparis.bigcartel.com/ copies are just £6.00. I am hoping to write some proper reviews early summertime, so look out for those. I read some of it on the train to get my mind set for Verve.

A couple of treats to finish the month I was going to 42 in Worcester but I discovered Tom McCann (who hit the scene last September and is headlining in Stirchley next week), started a Spoken Word night in Kings Norton this year ‘Spoken Trend’. Jan Watts was one of the three headline acts and it has been forever since I saw her. She is busy producing her theatre performances of ‘Holding Baby’, widely acclaimed as brilliant and a must see. I headed over to Birmingham and performed on the open mic, alongside some well established poets and then sat back to enjoy the featured artists James Kearns, Clive Oseman and Jan Watts.

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It was a superb night. A definite recommend.

On Thursday there was a slam night in Dudley featuring Emma Purshouse and in Birmingham a reading at Foyles with Roy McFarlane & Gregory Leadbetter (which I had tickets for) and  Wine & Poetry Evening, the second of its type, organised by Emma Press & Cynthia Miller. In the end I didn’t make it to any of them, my car has been poorly for 6 months and is now finally fixed. I spent the day helping family, by the time I hit home it was gone 6pm and I was out of energy and time.

And finally, I mentioned the Nuclear Impact anthology by Shabda Press in my January Review, now it is available for you to buy. It is an amazingly huge collection of poetry and has been a real labour of love for Teresa Mei Chuc. It is available for $25.00 and proceeds will be donated to charity. If you are in America, there are book launch readings taking place all across the country, Philadelphia, New York and in California, check those out.

http://www.shabdapress.com/nuclear-impact-anthology.html

NUCLEAR IMPACT: BROKEN ATOMS IN OUR HANDS
NUCLEAR IMPACT: BROKEN ATOMS IN OUR HANDS $25.00 USD

Proceeds from sales of the Nuclear Impact: Broken Atoms in Our Hands anthology will be donated to the Women’s Center in Downtown Los Angeles. www.downtownwomenscenter.org/
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There are talks currently for a reading in the UK, I will keep you posted.

I am already organising two festival events for V. Press poets and my next headline is in Manchester in a fortnight, plus I am working on submissions and reviews and in addition to all this am now rallying the troops for another Arts Festival happening in early Summer. Oh, and I may be marketing for another MAJOR festival soon too. So my plate is pretty full and I still have 8 lingering poems from my weekend at the Verve Festival to work on, (as well as a house to sort – note for Mr. G.) and it is back to work, work next week too!

I am happy busy but busy all the same. Blogs posts will be low priority now (with the exception of review posts for Verve and promotional drops) for a while, but there is plenty of historic posting in these waters so go and fill your buckets!

Keep writing!

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Verve Poetry Festival: Day 3 Poetry Breakfast

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Verve Poetry Festival had nearly 40 events, I spent the whole day at the festival both Saturday and Sunday, missing only the children’s events some workshops and some performances (because of workshops).

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POETRY BREAKFAST

Saturday kicked off with Roz Goddard and Cynthia Miller treating us to a Poetry Breakfast. Free pastries and Philip Larkin Jazz – what is there not to like? Roz opened the event with her love poem to Birmingham.

Cynthia talked about the programme and how the festival evolved from an enthusiastic tweet. One the rest of the city is grateful she sent. They hoped for an accessible poetry festival and that is exactly what they created with Verve. They wanted to reflect the spirit of Birmingham, the passion and drive and they certainly accomplished that too.

Cynthia is one of the new Primers poets (Primers Vol. 2) from The Poetry School and Nine Arches Press and will see her poetry published soon. She shared ‘Anthem for a Nasty Woman’.

Roz talked candidly about falling out of love with poetry and then falling back in love for it with the help of this festival. We all lose confidence and fall out with poetry from time to time, for me it is a weekly occurrence. It always feels good to hear others talk about what you experience, as it answers that question – is it just me? – with a resounding NO!

I really enjoyed waking early and catching a bus into town to catch this FREE event, it was definitely worth it. Even though the decision not to do a writing activity stung (my brain was ready), instead we did Speed Dating (hold onto your hat Mr.G, not like that)! It was a genius idea as it got us mingling and talking to each other about the festival and the future of poetry. We swapped three times, discussing a cue question given to us by Cynthia and moved on at the sound of a Tibetan Singing Bowl (perfect for the early hours). It was fun watching Birmingham wake up behind the screen (festival marquee).

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A great way to greet a full on day of poetry and workshops.

And it was FULL ON. The team have realised that scheduled breaks are necessary, especially as they had certain hard-core participants (Dean Atta, I may be looking at you and Angi Holden) who did 3 back-to-back workshops, that is 6 hours of focus. That is beyond most of us.

 

RELATED LINKS

Reviews of the Dice Slam and reading from Friday Night, Outspoken and Nine Arches – read them here: http://createdtoread.com/poetic-delights-verve-poetry-festival/

https://burningeyebooks.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/verve-poetry-and-diversity/

 

Verve Poetry Festival Day 2 – Part 2: Dice Slam with Apples & Snakes

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What Verve did really well and the secret behind the magic of the festival was the fusion between Spoken Word and Poetry. I always knew this was possible and the team proved it. What I really loved was people’s reaction to Spoken Word – those who had not experienced it before or wouldn’t brave a city event, found that they loved it.

There was plenty of talk over the weekend of the age demographics for both types of event but by the end of the weekend the spaces were filled with a wide range and people began to understand that it doesn’t matter. They stopped seeing it. If poetry is to thrive we need to have this commitment and enthusiasm for bridging a gap that technically doesn’t have to exist. It of course depends on what you like and I am just happy that I immerse in both forms comfortably.

To come from the relative quiet of the 2nd floor Festival Marquee to the loud, riotous mouth of the 1st floor Bar Stage and immerse ourselves in foot stamping, witness the clicking of appreciate and the howls after every poem performed was, even for a veteran of the spoken word scene, a bit of a culture shock. Like hitting London after a long weekend in the Isle of Wight!

I have been to slams, I have even braved one as a contestant. Now that I know work by heart I may brave some in the future. I had never been to a Dice Slam and I appreciate the Dadaism of scoring through chance, a roll of the dice. It made me feel sorry for the contestants with scores as low as 3 when their performances were clearly double figures, but on the other hand it took away that horrible scoring process that is always subjective at such events.

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Toby Campion, Vanessa Kissule, Skye Hawkins, Charley Genever and Kareem Parkins-Brown were the contestants and I looked forward to every performance as none are names I know. My experience of Spoken Word is bound to the city and some of the big names who headline throughout Poetryville. I love festivals for the potential of meeting and watching new to me poets.

This was an incredibly lively event, hosted by Amerah Saleh, who is a poet I know from her days with Beatfreaks and on the circuit of Birmingham. I first saw her perform at Mouth & Music on home turf. She was also one of four Podium Poets at this year’s festival. The others were Helen Calcutt, Jasmine Gardosi & Geraldine Clarkson.

THE JUDGES

We were introduced to the judges who all performed. Anna Freeman, a lecturer in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, she is also a multi-winning slam poet and if that wasn’t enough she is also a novelist. http://www.annafreemanwriter.com/

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I loved her ‘My Little Pony Poem’… ‘My Unicorn Friend, branding is a capitalist concept – so I explain this to the other six year olds…’

Dan Simpson is a poet and a producer and has a Doppelgänger working behind the café/bar in Waterstones and is published by Burning Eye. http://www.dansimpsonpoet.co.uk/verve-2-dan-simpson

© 2017 Dan Simpson (I presume)

In a peak of genius which was in keeping with the Dadaism of Dice Slamming, Dan brought this book along with him to use as a judging tool. requesting page numbers from the audience before scanning the page for relevance or reading non-relevance to justify the scores. Sometimes the universe worked and the reading was as apt as a fortune cookie fortune… other times more of a Christmas cracker joke.

Memorable, surrealistic performance… ‘what kind of 90s feminist, Disney character sandwich filler are you?’

Luke Kennard

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Who after years of not getting to see seems to be in my life right now as much as full meals. (Yesterday I had my first proper dinner for a week, so I am suggesting Luke pops up in my schedule weekly/monthly and not everyday… his family would have something to say about that I am sure!) If you haven’t discovered Luke yet, please do.

He is the new canal laureate and a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Birmingham University. He has published collections for more than 10 years, the most recent ‘Cain’ published by Penned in the Margins and has also just published a novel ‘The Transition’. transition-topping-books© 2017 Topping Books

https://www.toppingbooks.co.uk/events/bath/novelist-luke-kennard/

They had the tough job of validating dice scores and they did so with hilarious monologues/comments of worth and woe. As entertaining as the performers, although the performers threw us some very serious poem curve balls too.


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The five featured poets are all ridiculously talented writers and performers, and will converge on Birmingham from every corner of the country. It will be the first time Sky Hawkins (the North), Toby Campion (the Midlands), Kareem Parkins-Brown (London), Charley Genever (the South East), and Vanessa Kisuule (the South West) share the same stage. You may have seen some of them individually, of course, but the Dice Slam at Verve Festival really is a rare opportunity to check the pulse of poetry on a national scale at a single event. And to stop you feeling homesick, the local touch will be provided by our host, Birmingham’s own poetry powerhouse Amerah Saleh.

© 2017 Verve Team

Toby Campion reminded me of my time living in Leicester, he was very excited to be part of the Slam and grabbed hearts with his Midlands Poem. A conversation with the North and South… ‘you never acknowledge the Midlands, despite having been attached for thousands of years!’

Sky Hawkins opened the night with spectacularly hard hitting poetry. ‘Do not let the wolves teach your sons… especially if your sons are half wolves themselves.’ She was the overall winner. Receiving a massive 11 points from the dice.

Charley Genever stormed it- her Meal Deal poem went down particularly well. I liked the darkness of her poetry and that stunning flame/net mesh dress. (I know we shouldn’t belittle women by commenting on their fashion. I will mention Kareem’s bright orangey puffer jacket for balance here.) ‘A woman consumes in shades…’

Kareem Parkins-Brown performed his cake poem to great response. ‘I’d risk it for some lemon drizzle..’ and of course it opened the debate over Jaffa Cakes (biscuit)! Listen to it here: https://soundcloud.com/kareempb/cake (WARNING: Contains swearing, but you will hear how much the audience enjoyed his set).

Vanessa Kissule also pulled incredible set out of the bag having already enjoyed all other performances. I was immersed in the moment and was delighted to get to meet her briefly after the show. ‘Youth is made for bright colours and hemlines that hug upper thighs’

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It was a fantastic second night at the festival.


Dice Slam originated in the Netherlands when Bernhard Christianssen tried the format for the first time. There has only ever been one in the UK before and that was 6 years ago. (Before I hit the poetry scene or even started writing again.) No doubt it was brought to you by Apples & Snakes/ Bohdan Piasecki.

Photography unless otherwise stated © 2017 Waterstones/ Verve Team

Verve Poetry Festival Day 2 – Part 1: Kim Moore, Mona Arshi and Katrina Naomi

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I really wanted to create this post Friday night, but I was too tired. I have had 7AM alarm calls and 36 hours clocked at Verve in contrast to 14 hours sleep over 3 nights. I really wanted to post whilst the adrenaline was my driving force because my memories and emotions are still connected at that point.

Day 2 was another all evening event including: Kim Moore, Mona Arshi, Katrina Naomi, Toby Campion, Vanessa Kissule, Skye Hawkins, Charley Genever and Kareem Parkins-Brown in two separate events, both of which I was really looking forward to.

The programme is amazing and there are so many poets involved. A year in planning and such a smoothly operated inaugural festival… so smooth in fact that some people have mistakenly thought it has been running for years. I keep telling the team what a great job they are all doing and there is the proof! ^^^

I bought a festival pass, but had I been ticketing each event I would definitely have bought tickets for the first 4 events of the festival (Thursday & Friday night).

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We started with a reading from Kim Moore, Mona Arshi and Katrina Naomi, three multi-award winning poets, this event was sponsored by Birmingham City University and introduced by Jonathan Davidson, who also ran the Q&A.

I enjoyed the readings and discovering more about the poets, drawing parallels with my own decisions. I enjoyed them talking about Birmingham and how much the city has changed. I remember when I first came back after a decade away and the whole town had found ‘sparkle’, I lost my way, most of my landmarks and subways had disappeared.

Last time I heard Kim Moore read was at Swindon Poetry Festival last year. Mona Arshi also read at Swindon, which is where/when I discovered her and her beautiful work. I was in a Master Class with Daljit Nagra and wasn’t able to meet her properly or buy her book as we had to rush back to our notebooks.

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Kim Moore read from The Art of Falling, Seren Books. I loved hearing her teaching the trumpet days stories, I know what it is to have 30 children all with violins and at least 8 of them attempting to make the worst noise because the last thing they want to do is play it! Kim and I have both made huge decisions leaving full time teaching to be poets. I really wanted to buy her book in Swindon but I bought so many that I had to draw the line somewhere. I particularly liked ‘All the Men I Never Married’.

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Mona Arshi read from Small Hands, Pavilion Poetry Liverpool University Press. Mona talked about the form used with poems in this collection, the ghazal, originally an Arabic form, her passion evident. She shared ‘Hummingbird’ an early poem of hers that she has stopped reading. She talked about writing about her twins and at the mention of the ‘Jinn Spirit’ a decoration fell down. A lingering line ‘essence of girl darkness…’

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Katrina Naomi was my wild card, my new to me poet. I love festivals for this reason. It was a delight to hear her read. She opened her set with a poem about her mother, which focussed on one of those 70s swimming hats with the flowers all over them. Katrina read from The Way the Crocodile Taught Me also Seren Books.

Listening to all three women sparked inspiration. I am hoping to write some Nan poems, play with some new forms, look at using repetition successfully and probably some poems about boys.

These poets gave us their real insides tonight, I do not just mean ‘spilled guts’, I am talking about the honesty and truth. They could have chosen far less exposing poems to share but they gave us the blade edge.

Jonathan Davidson asked questions at the end and we heard from each poet about how they got into poetry. Mona returned to it during her difficult pregnancy (I returned through illness), Katrina said she fell into poetry by mistake (which is what I always say about teaching) and Kim was squeezing it in around the day job (which is my current transition, although I have graduated  with book ending my week with writing days).

“It’s an exciting adventure.” Kim Moore – on poetry.

“Poetry is transformative. Poetry discovers you, you have to write it. It’s a compulsion.” Mona Arshi

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At the end I planned to talk to all three poets. Which I did. I also bought copies of all three books using Christmas money.

 

RELATED LINKS

http://literatureworks.org.uk/features/katrina-naomi/