Sunday, 12 February 2017

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Light Night, Hysteria and 28 Sonnets Later

Hello there, and welcome to February! It’s one of my favourite months of the year because February is 28 Sonnets Later month!

In case you haven’t heard of it before, 28 Sonnets Later is a little project that Andy Bennett, Russell J Turner, Adam Warne and I started in 2012, in which we give ourselves 28 days to write 28 sonnets on a given topic. In recent years we’ve tried our hand at ekphrastic poetry, and a collaborative sonnet corona, as well as writing a series of very silly but enjoyable poems based on the fictional town of Buckley Oak.

Barbara Hepworth's Family of Man - one of the pieces we sonnetified in 2016

This year, the 28 Sonnets Later team (with 28SL newbie Olly Watson) are writing sonnets based on the 28 member states of the EU. We’re doing this for two reasons: it’s a deliciously topical subject right now (And we love a bit of current affairs!) and, until Theresa May has her wicked wicked way, there are still 28 countries in the union – which suits our project perfectly!

Look at this cool EU (and EC) gif! Made by Kolja21

So far, we’ve collectively written twelve sonnets, which I have popped in a list below for your convenience:

#1 Vadleany by Andy Bennett
#2 ¿No es irónico? by me
#3 Notch by Olly Watson
#4 December 25th 1989 by Russell J Turner
#5 Moravianska Venuša by Andy Bennett
#6 Peckish in Amsterdam by me

#7 Flowers in Odd Bunches by Olly Watson
#8 Claretta by Russell J Turner
#9 Vive by Andy Bennett
#10 Massis by me
#11 Ruben by Olly Watson
#12 Melania by Russell J Turner

I genuinely love writing sonnets as part of this project – it really cheers me up in the long dark evenings of February! I always seem to get properly obsessed with the poems, so much so that I even start speaking in iambic pentameter, and I find myself accidentally rhyming in every day conversation.

These are the hazards of being a poet, kids!

Anyway, you can check out the 28 Sonnets Later website to see a new poem every day in February, or follow us on Twitter to keep an eye on all things sonnety!

Zombie Shakespeare FTW!

And, my audio soundscape poetry-based project 'Hysteria' is still on at the LiSTEN iN gallery in the Bonington Atrium at Nottingham Trent University from Monday 13th - 17th March. The twenty minute looped piece plays every week day from 9am - 6pm, so if you haven’t checked it out yet, please do pop down and give it a little listen.

The project is a selection of my poems which we've recorded and mixed with a bit of sound/music, and it focuses on female bodies, personal preference, and the subversion traditional femininity, all with a heaped teaspoon full of irreverence thrown in for good measure! Thank you to everyone who has been to check it out so far – it’s been really lovely to hear that people have enjoyed listening to it!

Hysterical? Me?

This week has also been a busy one in terms of gigs, with three Nottingham-based events in quick succession:

On Wednesday 8th February, we were back in the caves for another excellent Crosswords Open Mic at the Malt Cross, with an absolutely brilliant featured set from Jim Hall! Jim stunned the audience with heartfelt lyrical tales from his latest collection, BOY, and also gave us a sneaky peak at some of his newer work too.

The very excellent Jim Hall!

We also had some wonderful performances on the open mic, with a great mix of content, styles and experiences being shared on stage. It was another full house – which is always so lovely to see – and although we didn’t manage to get everyone a slot on the open mic, it was still a pretty great night!

Next month we’re taking a break from Crosswords, but we’ll be back in the caves on Wednesday 12th April with a massive featured set courtesy of Norwich-based poet Piers Harrison-Reid. Piers is an incredible poet, and I’ve loved his work ever since I saw him perform in Norwich about five or six years ago.

The supremely talented Piers Harrison-Reid

His stuff is beautifully-crafted, profound and philosophical, with a meticulous eye for detail and I love the way he takes his audience on amazing emotional journeys and I can't wait to hear him performing an extended set with us! So come check him out on Weds 12th April – it's gunna be wild!

Then, on Friday 10th Feb I went down to the basement of the Nottingham Writers' Studio for some Light Night celebrations with the DIY Poets.

Light Night photos from the West Bridgford Wire

Light Night is this festival in Nottingham where shops and organisations open their doors for an evening of illuminations based around the theme of Light. There's a huge ferris wheel in the market square, lots of glorious street food and tonnes and tonnes of lovely light displays and projections all over the city centre. It's a really cool event, which very much appeals to my latent pagan sensibilities!

This year, as part of the festival, the DIY Poets presented a curated poetry show on the theme of light and dark. Hosted by Frank McMahon and Martin Grey, and with short spoken word sets from ten of the DIY Poets, the event also served as a launch night for Kevin Jackson's first collection 'Touching You'. It was a great night with some really impressive performances, and it was wonderful to hear an extended set from Kevin. I can't wait to settle down and read his book now!

Finally this week, we had a little poetry road trip to Southwell for the Folk at the Hop Barn gig with Claude Bourbon.

Claude's guitar work was incredible!

There were four of us in our little poetry troupe: Hazel Warren, Martin Grey, Andy Szpuk and me, and we really enjoyed playing to a different sort of crowd. The audience were clearly not expecting any poetry, and as we got on stage, I could see the fear in some of their faces.

Luckily, the gang gave a brilliant performance, and we completely won the crowd over by the end of our set! A lady even came up to us afterwards to say that she had been 'a bit apprehensive' at the mention of poetry but that we were 'really good' so she was pleasantly surprised. And it's always nice to surprise people into enjoying poetry, I always say!

It looks like I'm telling the audience off here; must be my no nonsense heels!

Friday, 27 January 2017

FRIDAY NIGHT NEWS – Leeds, Cardiff and Hysteria at the Bonington Gallery


I have been appallingly bad at keeping this blog up to date so far this year, haven’t I? Good job “do a blog post every week” wasn’t one of my New Year’s Resolutions, eh?

But, to be fair to me, it’s been a bit of a busy start to the year!

On Wednesday 11th January, we had another brilliant Crosswords Open Mic at the Malt Cross, with a cracking headline set from Hazel Rah Monaghan, who absolutely wowed us all with her beautiful words.

We also had some fantastic stuff on the open mic, and there were almost fifty people in the caves for the show, which was really wonderful to see – if a little bit cramped!

Rave in a cave, amiright?

Next month, our feature is the incredible Nottingham-based poet Jim Hall. I’m really excited for this one, because I’ve admired Jim’s work ever since I first saw him at Poetry is Dead Good back in 2015. His poetry is thoughtful, profound, and intense in the most gentle lyrical way, and you should definitely come check him out if you’re in the area on 8th Feb – I promise you won’t regret it!

The marvellous Jim Hall

On Saturday 14th January, I ambled down the A1 to do some poems at the Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival.

The Straw Bear Festival is one of those really idiosyncratic local events that only seem to happen in the British countryside. This particular festival involves a person dressing up in a suit of straw and dancing around the market square, ostensibly to ensure a good harvest for the town for the following year, but also as an excuse for a nice day out for Fen folk in the bitter mid-January cold.

The festival also includes lots of excellent food and drink, as well as poetry, storytelling and loads and loads and loads of morris dancers.

A little bit of Morris 

If it sounds completely weird, that’s because it kind of is, but it’s also pretty good fun. Plus the lovely folk at Poets United, a Peterborough-based poetry collective, have been kind enough to invite me to do poems with them at this festival for the past three years.

We had a great time telling poems in Whittlesey town hall this time around, and it was lovely to be performing with Poets United again. And I even managed to perform some of my poems from memory – without forgetting any of the words! – which is something that I’ve been practising for ages, but haven't had the chance to properly try out until now. Hooray!

I reckon I was inspired by the Straw Bear dancing to be honest. Hopefully my witnessing it will help ensure a fruitful and poetic 2017!

The Straw Bear himself (right)

Then, on Thursday 19th January, I skipped out of work an hour early and swooped up the motorway to Leeds for my first ever performance in the city.

I’d been invited to do some poems in Leeds by the lovely people at Sofar Sounds. In case you haven't heard of them yet, Sofar Sounds are this really cool global movement facilitating gigs for emerging artists and their audiences in really intimate venues in cities across the world.

Source

Audiences sign up to receive the gig dates each month, and book their tickets without knowing who will be on stage, or whereabouts the show will take place in their chosen city. It could be anywhere, from a room above a pub or a church hall, to an outdoor space or even someone’s living room! The address of the venue isn’t announced until the day before the event, and the line-up isn’t announced until the audience actually arrive at the gig - making the whole thing seem a bit clandestine and very very cool.

Sofar Sounds primarily provide space for musicians and bands, but the Leeds team were really keen to have a bit of poetry on their setlist, so they signed me up. I was the first non-music act they’d ever had, which made me feel super nervous on the night!

I forgot to ask my friend to take pics at the gig, so here are chicken feet instead

I’d brought along my friends Catie and Ben for moral support (and because I was planning on sleeping on their sofa afterwards, so it would be a bit rude not to invite them!) and the gig went really well! There were about fifty people in the space and, because Sofar Sounds pride themselves on maintaining a really respectful ethos, the audience were dead attentive, which was really lovely!

I felt proper euphoric coming off stage, and had a brilliant time chatting with members of the audience during the breaks. It was also really great to hear some top quality music from Matt Grayson who played a series of stripped-back songs by his band, Walton Hesse, as well as the brilliant experimental sounds of Amy Fitz Doyley, who employed a vocoder, a bass guitar, and some lovely hand chimes in her performance!

Amy is much better at getting people to photograph her at her gigs...

Hopefully, they’ll be a couple of videos out soon from this gig, so I’ll keep you in the loop when they drop! Thanks to everyone at Sofar Sounds Leeds for having me!

And, if that wasn’t enough excitement for one week, I also had a little jaunt to foreign climes on Monday 23rd January. Fancy that!

Well actually I went to Cardiff, not San Paulo or Tokyo. And, while Wales is technically another country, it’s probably not quite as exotic as I first made it out to be… Hashtag hyperbole, I guess.

This is what Wales looks like from space - pretty cool, eh? 

Anyway, I’d invited myself along to Juke open mic in Cardiff city centre and Renn, who runs the night, had very kindly given me a featured slot at the event.

The theme of the show was abstinence and over-indulgence - which was pretty fitting given the time of year - and the standard of poetry on the open mic was incredibly high. There were poems about love, sex (or the lack of it), sobriety and eating disorders, as well as poems about dancing and darkness, stories about superheroes, and of course the odd anti-Trump pastiche thrown in for good measure.

Excellent night, terrible posture!

I love the idea of setting a theme for participants to use in their writing, and it was wonderful to see so many people engaged spoken word on a cold Monday night in Cardiff. Renn and her team have built up a really welcoming night, which felt really grounded and well-established, despite only having started in 2015.

And I have honestly never met a friendlier set of people, and we all talked late into the night about poetry and writers’ groups and it was glorious! I’ll definitely be going back to Cardiff to do more stuff as soon as I can!

Upcoming Stuff:
Next week, my audio soundscape poetry based project 'Hysteria' is being played at the LiSTEN iN gallery in the Bonington Atrium at Nottingham Trent University. The project, which I've been working on with sound technician Rob Squirrell for the past couple of months, is a selection of my poems which we've recorded and mixed with a bit of sound/music, and I'm really excited that it's finally getting out into the world!

'Hysteria' focuses on female bodies, personal preference, and the examination and subversion traditional femininity, and the LiSTEN iN gallery will be playing it on loop from Monday 30th January to Friday 17th February. The Bonington Atrium is open from 9am to 6pm every weekday, so if you're in Nottingham, why not come along and give it a little listen? I'll love you forever if you do!



And, with February just around the corner, it's time to gear up for another 28 Sonnets Later extravaganza! This year, we'll be writing twenty-eight sonnets about a certain political hot-potato, and I'm really looking forward to getting to grips with something a little bit meaty (if that's not too much of a mixed food-based metaphor).

Check us out from Wednesday 1st February to find out all about this year's challenge, or keep up to date with all the sonnet-writing goodness via the 28 Sonnets Later twitter page!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Poetry NYE Resolutions

For the last couple of years I’ve been setting myself a few poetry New Year’s Resolutions – because there’s nothing like setting goals and making lists to make a person feel chronically inadequate!

I’m joking. Actually, the reason I set myself a couple of resolutions is so I can forget about them by 15th January, then remember them hurriedly on 31st December and laugh about how many I’ve utterly failed to do.

So let’s see how I got on this year!

I had four new year’s resolutions for 2016:
1. See at least six full-length spoken word shows
2. Do at least ten workshops
3. Go to at least thirty new (to me) poetry nights
4. Go to the Edinburgh Fringe

So how did I get on? Well, in 2016 I saw five spoken word shows: Ben Norris, Mulletproof Poet, Luke Wright, Andy Szpuk and Michelle Mother Hubbard, plus a revue by the Mouthy Poets here in Nottingham. I also saw a bit of theatre for the first time in ages, courtesy of the Pussy Patrons, as well as my first ever dance show, curated by Tight Theatre.

I also managed to facilitate no less than sixteen workshops this year, which was much better than I expected! Twelve of these were as part of the Write Here Sanctuary Refugee project in Nottingham, while the others were at Kimbolton School in Cambridgeshire and Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in East London, as well as a workshop with primary-school aged children at the Museum of Cambridge, and another with adults as part of the Words for Walls Project with the University of Nottingham. This means that I actually managed to work with a really diverse number of groups this year, including my first session with younger kids, and my first group of participants using English as a second language. Hoorah!

I also performed at thirty-five separate poetry gigs this year. Twenty-five of those thirty-five gigs were completely new to me, and while that’s definitely below my target of thirty, it does mean that I had a whopping 71% new gig rate, which is seven percentage points higher than last year!

Mmm, poetry statistics!

So that’s probably two and a half resolutions completed, which isn’t bad going really. As I’m sure you’re already aware, I didn’t make it to the Edinburgh Fringe again this year, which was a real shame because I really really really wanted to go!

But it definitely gives me something to aim for in 2017, so it can’t be all bad!

I've finally settled on five resolutions for 2016:

1. Read at least ten poetry collections or anthologies
2. Do at least ten more workshops
3. Go to at least twenty-five new (to me) poetry nights
4. Write a half-hour poetry set/show for performance
5. Go to the Edinburgh Fringe!

Wish me luck!

So Kawaii!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

WEDNESDAY NIGHT NEWS - 2016 Year in Review


Well, that was 2016. And, as is customary on this blog (and because I fancy myself as a bit of a cool Charlie Brooker type) it’s time for my review of this little corner of the internet for 2016:

January // February // March
2016 got off to a pretty good start when I landed a supporting slot at Cabaret of Cunts, a feminist review in Limehouse in London, featuring amazing performances from Tight Theatre and Pussy Patrons. I facilitated a day of creative writing workshops with Y7 pupils at Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in London, and performed at House of Verse in Leicester and Steel & Lace in Sheffield. I also got published as part of the Write Minds ‘Madder Than We Look’ anthology (which you can still buy here).

Tight Theatre

In February, I wrote sonnets with Russell J Turner, Adam Warne and Andy Bennett, for our fifth sonnet writing challenge, 28 Sonnets Later. This time around we did ekphrastic poems, so I managed to learn a bit about Art History while also writing sonnets. Excellent! I also performed at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester, and Poetry is Dead Good in Nottingham.

The Women Say... Stuff team

March was another busy month: I gave a workshop with Y13s at Kimbolton School in Cambridgeshire, performed at Too Deep for a Monday and helped to organise the Women Say… Stuff event on International Women’s Day, with all the proceeds of the event going to Nottingham Rape Crisis Centre.

April // May // June
In April, I did NaPoWriMo with some wonderful writers from London and East Anglia, and we each managed to write thirty poems in thirty days. We also announced the winner of the Fenland Poet Laureate Competition, and it was an emotional awards ceremony as we said good bye to Elaine Ewart, who left the team to concentrate on her PhD.

A gaggle of Fenland Poet Laureates!

I was ecstatic to be booked to support Harry Baker at the SOAPBOX Presents gig in Stowmarket in May, and it was wonderful to get out to Derby for my first ever Twisted Tongues show in the same month. I also had the opportunity to record a poem for the Write Lion podcast, which was really exciting! Then, in June, I curated the Spoken Word tent at the Gate to Southwell festival and did some poems at Ouse Muse in Bedford.

With a huge crowd for the first ever Southwell Slam!

July // August // September
I ran a workshop for the Words for Walls project in July, and spent a weekend at Newstead Abbey as part of the Wandering Poets event at the stately home.

The Wandering Poets (staying fairly still for the photo...)

In August I performed at Folk East in Suffolk, and worked with the Museum of Cambridge to create a poetry trail and facilitate some workshops with primary-school aged children (My first ever workshop with this age group!) I also had two poetry job interviews: one for the Cheltenham Literature Festival and another with Writing East Midlands.

Cut up words for the Museum of Cambridge workshops

September was when I performed at Poetical in Nottingham, as well as my first appearance at Green Fest. I also nabbed a featured slot at Verse Matters in Sheffield, and did some poems at the Fourth Wave Feminist Festival in Hackney Downs, where I also heard talks by some really impressive women! (What I was doing at this kind of thing is anybody’s guess!)

Making a 'no seriously guys' face at Green Fest

October // November // December
October was so busy that I’m sort of surprised I managed to do any other work during the month. I performed at: Speech Therapy, Hockley Hustle, The Stanza Newcastle, and Word Wise Derby, and started the weekly poetry workshops with the Write Here Sanctuary Women’s Refugee group, and went out recording poems with DIY Poets for Poetry in the Peaks, and wrote a performed a wedding poem for my friends Catie and Ben at their ceremony in Richmond, and did some stuff at the TEDxUCLWomen event in London.

Behind the scenes filming for Poetry in the Peaks 

Phew!

In November I performed at the Poetry in Aldeburgh Festival, the Line of Light Art Installation launch and the Southwell Folk Society, and in December I headlined the Poetic Snowfalls event in Bury St Edmunds, and did some poems at the Too Deep for a Monday Christmas party. I also took part in Poetercize (the poetry gameshow) at Poetry is Dead Good – which was amazing and ridiculous and jolly good fun!

Line of Light Installation

Blimey! What a busy year! And here’s to an even busier 2017!

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

WEDNESDAY NIGHT NEWS – London Interviews, Poetic Snowfalls, and Christmas Gigs


All right there, everyone? Ready for Christmas? Got your New Year’s eve plans all sorted out? Me neither. But honestly, this winter break can’t come soon enough for me – I’ve been rushed off my feet these last two months. Time for a bit of Xmas relaxation, I say! (You can tell I don’t do the cooking on Christmas Day, can’t you?)

Hashtag Christmas Cheer 'n' shit

Anyway, it’s been such a busy few weeks that I had to write myself a little list in order to remember everything. Here’s the round-up; I hope I don’t miss anybody out!

On Wednesday 7th Dec, we found ourselves back in the Malt Cross for a very festive Crosswords Spoken Word Open Mic. Our November event was cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances (the caves were under water due to some kind of burst pipe affair) so it was lovely to be back in December! We had some fab talent on the open mic, and a totally brilliant headline set from one of my favourite poets of the moment, the superlative Dan Clark.

Dan’s stuff is funny, and philosophical and thought-provoking, and he delivers it in this brilliantly engaging and slightly dishevelled style that feels really inclusive and welcoming, while still having this razor-sharp wit that I absolutely love. The Crosswords audience seemed to really enjoy his performance too, and it was a great way to end our first year at Crosswords!

Dan Clark looking majestic in the Ipswich Star

Now, I’m busily booking guests for next year’s events, and I have to say that booking poets is actually one of my favourite things to do! I feel properly privileged to be able to showcase great talent at Crosswords, supporting emerging artists and taking poets that I love and presenting them to the audience like “Ta-Da! Look how great these people are!”

It makes me feel all tingly inside!

And speaking of awesome poets, our featured act in January is the very lovely Hazel Monaghan, who was our winner of the 2016 Southwell Slam. Hazel is an actor, director, performer and spoken word artist, and her poetry is just superb. It really is worth catching her when she performs on 11th January! Check out our Facebook events page for more details on that one.

That's a good looking press shot, Hazel Monaghan!

Then, on the 8th December I snuck down to that London for a cheeky job interview with Apples and Snakes, at the Albany in Deptford.

Apples and Snakes are one of the top spoken word organisations in the UK, and I was interviewing for an emerging writer in residence position at the SPINE Festival 2017. SPINE is this incredible free poetry, storytelling and live lit festival that the Apples and Snakes team organise in London Libraries, and I was SO NERVOUS about the interview that I very nearly didn’t go!

Luckily, I didn’t give in to the urge to hide under the duvet at home all day, and the interview itself actually went really well. I think I did the best job that I could, and although I didn’t get the role in the end (Boo!) it was really exciting to even be considered. It really boosted my confidence to know that I’d actually built up a lot skills in these last few years of messing about with words, and it was also pretty lovely to be at an interview related to something that I’m passionate about (Not that I’m not deeply passionate about University administration, you understand…)

The feedback from the Apples and Snakes team was also really encouraging, and I think the main thing that let me down was a lack of practice in doing creative interviews, so hopefully this is just the start for me…

Source

Then, on Thursday 15th December I took two very crowded trains down to Bury St Edmunds to take part in the Poetic Snowfalls event, hosted by Dray Zera and Geneviève L. Walsh.

It was a total mission to get down to deepest darkest Suffolk (Especially considering I had exploded my car the week before!) but I was so glad to be there because the line-up was shit-hot! There were some brilliant performances from the likes of Robin Lamboll, Nikki Marrone, Nathan Smith, Dan Clark, Charley Genever, Piers Harrison-Reid, Geneviève L. Walsh, Christine York, Matt Annis, Thomas Ford, and Jayd Amber Green – and all for a fiver entry fee. Now that is poetic value for money!

I also did my second ever AirBnB that night, staying with a lovely lady called Sylvana in Bury town centre. And even though I was only in the house for about six hours in total (what with all the travel-based chaos and all) it was another really nice experience. Sylvana was incredibly kind and welcoming, and her house was pretty beautiful too! We also had a really good chinwag about her undergraduate thesis, and I would’ve loved to have stayed around and chatted longer if I had the time.

This week, I’ve been drumming up Fenland Poet Laureate publicity on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire (Check me out here – we’re 2.5 hours into the programme!) and performing at the fantastic Too Deep for a Monday Christmas Party, where I shared the stage with a veritable pride of incredible women including Sarah Crutwell, Sophie Sparham, Bridie Squires, That Welsh Woman, and Midnight Shelley!

My most serious face (or it could just be wind...)

Finally, my last gig of the year was the Poetry is Dead Good Christmas Party, during which time Chris McLoughlin, Joshua Judson, Bridie Squires and I dressed in our finest sportswear to battle it out for glory in Poetercize – the Poetry Gameshow!

Poetercize is kind of like a cross between Poetry Please and the Krypton Factor, with physical and mental challenges galore, lots of exotic wordplay, and even a bit of dancing thrown into the mix! The game’s hosted and devised by the mighty Stephen Thomas, who basically tortures poets for a living – making us wear our most outlandish trackie bees while sweating it out in front of an audience to win nothing but book tokens and bucket-loads of glory!

But not this type of Glory

This particular event was a rematch – Chris and I were reigning champions, having won our last battle in October at Hockley Hustle, while Bridie and Joshua were took on the role of plucky underdogs in round two.

Well, it was a close-run thing: Chris and I won the French poem round (with an educated guess that turned out to be right on the money), while Bridie and Josh excelled in the interpretive dance and ‘boobs or balls’ segments of the show.

In the end, there was just one point between us, and it all came down to the final – a frenetic word-hunt obstacle course and poetry slam! We each gave 110% and really made it our own, but couldn’t quite match the lyrical dexterity of our worthy adversaries!

Stretching our Poetry Muscles at Hockley Hustle in October

Joshua and Bridie emerged victorious, and although I am totally magnanimous in defeat, I reckon we was robbed! Nah, it was a brilliant event though, and really good fun too. But, we definitely need to do best two out of three to determine the ultimate winner in 2017!

Next week, I am mostly going to be eating turkey sandwiches, smelly cheeses, those weird little shrivel cocktail sausages, and all the other marvellous left-over Christmas food. I’ll also be doing a few Christmassy posts, and hopefully writing a few new poems (Chance would be a fine thing!)

Also, there will be Christmas Dinner

Hope you all have a lovely Christmas and blumming wonderful New Year, and I’ll see you on the other side!

Sunday, 4 December 2016

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Projects, Projects and More Projects

Hello there! I know this is a ridiculous cliché, but the month has really flown by, hasn’t it? I can’t believe it’s December already!

And, after my far-flung adventures in October and early November, I thought it was high time I spent a bit more time closer to home. So, a couple of weeks ago, I took a carload of poets up the A612 for a Folk and Poetry event in Southwell.

There were four of us in my little Corsa – Trevor, Hazel, Clare and me – and as we drove down the abandoned-looking dirt track towards the spooky building the sat-nav promised was our destination, I couldn’t help feeling like this was the start of a horror movie: four poets lost on the way to a gig accidentally end up at the remote home of a serial killer in the remote Nottinghamshire countryside! Dun dun dun!

As it turned out, it was actually a pretty swanky place!

Luckily, that stuff was all in my imagination, and we actually made it to the venue in one piece: a fantastic barn conversion that housed music and dance events, and residencies for performing artists from across the UK.

It was a really cool place to perform and – considering most of the audience didn’t know there would be poetry ahead of their Headline act – I think we did a pretty good job! Lots of people stopped us afterwards to ask us about our stuff, and it was so lovely to be part of something a bit different too.

Then, last week, I popped along to West Bridgford Library to check out Poetry Aloud, a fantastic event curated by graduates from Nottingham Trent University’s MA Creative Writing Course.

There were some fab sets from my fellow DIY poets Trevor Wright and Lytisha Tunbridge, and a great performance by the very lovely Katy Gearing, as well as some fantastic stuff from Becky Cullen, Jo Dixon, Lucy Peacock, Elvire Roberts, Andrew Taylor and Rory Waterman. It was a veritable feast for the ears! Plus, it gave me morsel of encouragement for possible future MA-related dreams. Watch this space, I guess!

Elvire Roberts reciting her fab poetry at Poetry Aloud

Also this month, I’ve been feverishly plugging the Fenland Poet Laureate Competition, which launched a few weeks’ ago.

The Fenland Poet Laureate Programme is a community arts project that seeks to promote poetry in the rural areas of North and East Cambridgeshire, West Norfolk and South Lincolnshire (more commonly known as ‘The Fens’.) The programme helps to facilitate creative opportunities and support writers across the region, and one of the main ways we do this is through the Fenland Poet Laureate Competition!


The competition runs annually, and asks talented local writers from the ages of 10-110 (and older if you like!) to ‘write a poem for Fenland’. The poems are judged completely anonymously and, once our panel have picked their favourites, the shortlisted poets are invited to an awards ceremony, where the winners are announced!

One of the best things about winning the title is that you really can do anything you like with your time in the post: former laureates have set up local open mic nights, edited publications, established literary magazines, written poems for local events and organisations, organised writing workshops, performed at local, national and international festivals, and done loads of other cool things with the support of the Fenland Poet Laureate Programme. It’s a great was of raising your own profile, as well as taking advantage of opportunities, and hopefully giving other local writers a helping hand too!

A flock of Fenland Poet Laureates!

This year, I’m coordinating the entries (and anonymising them ready to pass them onto our judging team) and I can’t tell you how excited I am every time another entry pings into the inbox! Plus, I get to play with spreadsheets to log all the entries – and I do love a good spreadsheet! (Who doesn’t?!)

If you live, work or study in the Fenland area, and fancy your chances at becoming our Laureate for 2017, send us your entries! All the details on how to enter, as well as info on whether you fall under our eligibility criteria, are available on the Fenland Poetry website. I am disgustingly excited about receiving your poems!

Mary Livingstone - Fenland Poet Laureate 2016 - reading her winning poem

I’ve also been having a marvellous time working with Writing East Midlands on the Write Here: Sanctuary project, helping very excellent Nottingham-based poet Rich Goodson to facilitate a series of creative writing workshops with a group of refugees and asylum seekers.

Rich and I have been working with members of the Women’s Cultural Exchange Group at the Refugee Forum in Nottingham, and there are also other poets working with groups in Derby and Leicester as part of the project.

A Write Here: Sanctuary workshop in full swing!

It’s been so amazing to work with so many incredible, intelligent and riotously funny women, and Wednesday mornings are now the highlight of my week! In fact, my favourite part of the project is that, because we have thirteen sessions spread out over thirteen weeks, we’ve all really got a chance to get to know each other, and it’s been so cool to watch everyone’s writing improve and grow of the course of the sessions.

I’m definitely going to a big post about the whole experience soon – so watch out for that – but for now I’m just going to say that in today’s session, Rich taught the group how to write villanelles (which are super hard!) and our participants wrote so many good poems that it actually made me want to do a bit of a happy cry! But I didn’t because I am a professional.

So Professional!

I also managed do some cheeky recording over the weekend, so I have a new youtube video online!

I’m really pleased with how it turned out, so if you fancy taking a look at my very pale and animated little face, you can check out the video here.

Please do give it a cheeky watch, and share it if you think it’s worth sharing, as it would blumming marvellous to get it to over 100 views!

Behind the scenes video photo! (And jazz hands, apparently?!)

Next week, we have our final Crosswords Spoken Word Open Mic of the year, and you should definitely come if you’re in the Nottingham area. It’s downstairs at the Malt Cross pub in the city centre on Wednesday 7th December. Doors open at 7:30pm and we start the show at 8pm. It’s £2 per person, and there’s loads of open mic slots, so we’d love to see you there. Check out our Facebook event for more details.

Friday, 11 November 2016

POEM - Witness


Today is Armistice Day in UK, which is a time to come together to think about those people who gave their lives in service of their countries in numerous wars across the globe.

It’s so important to remember those who have died in these circumstances, but it’s also vital to understand the horrors of war and the historical context behind conflicts, in order to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again.

In these divided and divisive times, standing up for our collective human rights and looking after each other is more important than ever.

 This poem is about the penalties for desertion during the First World War. I wrote it as part of the Poems for Peace anthology, which was published back in 2015. The poem is called Witness.  

Witness
I have tasted dust and blood
And felt the shrapnel’s sting.
I have moved among the dead
And witnessed everything.

I have dodged the rounds and shells
And heard the bullets sing.
I have moved among the dead
And witnessed everything.

I have felt the fear and shame
Creep beneath my skin.
I have moved among the dead
And witnessed everything.

Some will call it cowardice,
Betraying kith and kin,
But I have moved among the dead
And witnessed everything.

Mortar-worn, I ran from hell
And that’s my only sin.
I have moved among the dead
And witnessed everything.

So fasten feathers to my coat –
I’ll scarcely feel the pin.
For I have moved among the dead,
And witnessed everything.

And I will raise my blindfold
When the firing squad begins,
So when they shoot between my eyes
I’ll witness everything.

And when they write our history,
Please pencil my name in.
Honour me among the dead,
And witness everything.

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