Launch of #MeToo Anthology

Yesterday was International Women’s Day and also the launch of the #MeToo anthology, a collection of poems written by women (including one from me) in response to the #MeToo campaign on social media last year  and a subsequent call for poems from the wonderful Deborah Alma.

Held at Waterstones, Tottenham Court Road, the event was fully attended and it was an evening that left the audience embracing one another, glassy-eyed.

Deborah, Jill Abram, Jacqueline Saphra and Michelle Penn read a selection of poems from the anthology and time evaporated as we heard about the experiences of women; bruised, scarred, brave women.

The sense of solidarity and love in the room was inescapable — people united through poetry and shared experience, strengthened by the knowledge that the mistreatment of women doesn’t have to be a lonely experience.

Because it happened to #MeToo.

Henley Arts Trail 2016

Once again, I was invited, by Nacera Guerin, to take part her poetry evening, as part of The Henley Arts Trail.

It was lovely, if nerve-wracking, to read some of my own poetry, and I had some great comments afterwards, which is always reassuring. We poets are sensitive souls at the best of times, let alone when we lay our words on the line, so to speak.

It was great to see Claire Dyer again, especially as she wrote the endorsement for Paper Swans’ Schooldays, which has been shortlisted for ‘Best Anthology’ in the Saboteur Awards (vote HERE – please!)

I went with two great friends and poets, Jill Munro and Jess Mookherjee, who also read. Thankfully, nobody took pics of me, but here’s some pics of Claire, Jess and Jill reading:

Alice Ekphrasis at The British Library

IMG_3483Last night, I had the pleasure of attending Alice Ekphrasis at The British Library, an event conceived by Abegail Morley, Catherine Smith and Emer Gillespie

An ekphrasis is (in my very basic terms) when one piece of artistic work is based on another, in this case it was poems written in response to the most renowned work of Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland.

I wasn’t sure what to expect but with the given line up of poets, I knew it would be good. And it was. Mona Arshi started us off with Alice “shaking her anklets” in a wedding dress shop in Pune, India and (by way of the Head Teacher’s office, Instagram and a nightclub) we ended with Alice “off her head” and endlessly waiting…(Luke Wright)

The poems challenged and probed into areas not trodden and I was particularly struck by Sasha Dugdale’s The Ballad of Mabel, which explored an unseen character, mentioned by Alice and who she fears she is becoming. Dugdale allows us to see why this “stain from the inkbottle” unnerves Alice and, in doing so, also unnerves the reader. Poor Mabel, indeed.
Another poem that sticks with me is Abegail Morley’s Daisy Chains and Downers, particularly the line “Walton Road parts its lips, exhales|I slip down to the unwelcome place”. Alice is falling, but not as we know it.

After the readings, I had the pleasure of a quick chat with the lovely Hollie McNish. I love her poetry and first saw her in Edinburgh with my poetry pal, Stephanie Arsoska. I recently chose her poem Mermaids to read at my poetry group and her poem last night, Shrinking, about a waitress in an Alice costume at an airport Wetherspoon’s was just brilliant. She captures people and society so perfectly and so poignantly.

There is also an exhibition at The British Museum about Alice and Lewis Carroll to celebrate 150 years since the publication of Alice in Wonderland, which is open until 17th April and I would definitely encourage you to treat yourself to a copy of the Ekphrasis book while you’re there. I always carry a poetry book around in my handbag and for the next few weeks, there will definitely be an Ekphrasis in there, nestling amidst unposted letters and yesterday’s receipts.

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N.B. The clarity of photos are due to the lighting and absolutely nothing to do with Jess Mookherjee making me drink absinthe beforehand, as we channelled our inner Byron and went down the rabbit-hole…

Agenda Poetry Festival – Patience Agbabi

06ba0f86-b9ba-11e3-_559816kI have spent the afternoon at the Agenda Poetry Festival with Patience Agbabi. Well, I wasn’t with her as such, but I was listening to her and then took part in a workshop she led.

Held at Mayfield School, which is fortunately just up the road from me, she read a variety of her poems, including the multi-layered Eat Me which is now on the A-Level syllabus. We were treated to several poems from The Ted Hughes Award shortlisted anthology Telling Tales which is a re-telling of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. To be fair, ‘re-telling’ doesn’t do it justice at all. In addition to the twenty-four poems/tales, she includes Harry ‘Bells’ Bailey’s Prologue and Back Track as well as Author Biographies for the ‘pilgrims’ including Mozilla Firefox who states “I adore the heroic couplet but free verse is OK, as long as you’re wearing adequate protection.”

TIMG_2310he workshop explored the theme of food and pulled on the senses and the pleasures and pain of eating. I’m not sure my poem about spaghetti bolognese will make it to my draft pile, but it was fun to write
and made me think about placement on the page, white space and synaesthesia.

Tomorrow, the festival continues and I am going to the evening performance to hear Daljit Nagra, Grace Nichols and Robin Robertson. I am almost as excited at the prospect of catching up with some old and new poetry friends that I have made in the Kent/Sussex area. Total poetry immersion; a baptism of words.

The Emma Press ‘Slow Things’ Launch

Slow-Things-productLast week, I attended The Emma Press launch of ‘Slow Things’, their new anthology, in which I am featured (p30 if you’re interested) about things that are slow. But you had probably guessed that. It was held at The Rambert Dance Studios where, surprisingly, there was a sign up instructing us not to jump for fear the building would crumble around us, or words to that effect. I might have done a sneaky jeté in the loo, but don’t tell!

It was a lovely evening where I bumped into the lovely Claire Dyer who has been a recent judge over at Paper Swans and I also had the pleasure of meeting Alison Brackenbury, who was absolutely delightful. I read my poem which was somewhat of an oxymoron being a three-line and thus very quick poem about something that is actually very slow (the M25). It was great to say hello to Emma and Rachel again and my thanks to them for publishing my little poem. I have been attempting to get published by The Emma Press for two years now and I was delighted to finally get accepted.

And, it just goes to show that small can be beautiful. I love short poems and have just signed up for the short poem course at The Poetry School next term, as well as the course about women. Having just completed my prose poetry course (which was great) I was very keen to sign up again for the next term. If you are a poet, do check out the courses and also Campus, which is The Poetry School’s version of Facebook.

Anyway, here I am looking a bit scruffy around the edges, but clutching my lovely anthology and not jumping.

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Ready, Set….Write!

10409564_874798889237535_7341000915540181432_nAh, yes. The new year brings new resolve and mine is to get something published. This means more writing, better writing, more editing and actually submitting my poems (helps!). The Poetry Fairy (well, a very lovely friend) gave me a voucher to have 5 poems critiqued with Wendy Pratt and her advice has given me the confidence to keep going and made me realise that although most some of my work is utter shite, some of it is actually not bad and with editing and tlc, it might actually stand a chance of getting published.

I have been so busy with Paper Swans, that I have somewhat neglected my own writing. It’s all down to free time, which is a rare commodity in my household, and although January is going to be utter madness with the upcoming publication of Paper Swans’ first anthology, I also need to put some time aside for me to write. This time is late at night. There is simply no interrupted time until then and, luckily, I am a full-on night owl and my husband likes to go to bed fairly early. I know I have limitations and I don’t want to get too specific, but if I can write something every day – even if it’s just a line or some ideas, then I feel I will make more progress. I am aiming for a couple of poems a week, some editing and maintaining my flash fiction entry to the Friday Flash Fiction. I also have a secret little prose project on the go, so I want to work on that too. The other thing I really want to make more time for is reading, both poetry and prose. Believe me, I have enough books lined up of both genres and I am an avid believer that the more you read, the better you write.

One thing I am excellent at, is procrastinating. So, with no time like the present, I’d better go and scrawl a few lines…

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Wise Words Festival

I am thrilled to have had a haiku selected for the Wise Words Festival, running in Canterbury 12th-21st September 2014.  The remit was for a haiku about one of the given shops (supporting the festival) and mine was selected for Fenwicks. It is displayed in their window with a QR code which links back to the website where there is further information.

On Friday, I went to see my name in print! I was slightly perturbed that they had moved my ‘on’ to the next line (and therefore no longer haiku but micropoetry) but, there I was – in glorious red!

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Winchester Poetry Festival

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Yesterday I took a trip to Winchester Poetry Festival. It is on for the weekend, but I could only go for one day. I was interested to see how it was run and, of course, hear some new poets.

In the afternoon, I went to the student slam which was sixth form students from local schools/colleges competing in a poetry slam. I was really impressed, not just with the poetry, but the passion and enthusiasm. Who says poetry is a dying art?! I do think spoken word poetry (the mot du jour it seems) is on the up and, perhaps, for the younger generations adds the ‘pazazz’ which page poetry doesn’t always deliver. In the foyer, I chatted to the man from Magma about it and we agreed that a lot of spoken word is either rap or comedic and it would be interesting to see a wave of more serious, less rhythmic spoken poetry. Not that the other should be negated – definitely not – but I noticed some of the students ‘performed’ their poems (thrusting arms, Del Boy neck movements) in a somewhat formulaic manner. Interestingly, the winners (who, thankfully, I had picked out too) were more sedate, eloquent and still in their delivery.

IMG_5643In the early evening I went to ‘Hogwords’ which celebrated Hampshire poets and I heard seven local poets read their work (Robyn Bolam, Stephen Boyce, John Haynes, Joan McGavin, Nick MacKinnon, Maggie Sawkins and Julian Stannard). I must admit, I had never heard of any of them but they have a fine pedigree between them and Nick MacKinnon won the 2013 Forward Prize. It was good to hear poets/poems I would have never experienced had I not been there and also which ones appealed and which didn’t. This is, of course, no reflection on their merit, but on my taste and I think it is healthy for a poet to acknowledge that some poetry, no matter how acclaimed, simply doesn’t do anything for them. Nobody is wrong, it is just not their thing (like my dislike of Oasis – despite acknowledging their success and Noel’s talent, I just can’t bear them). I think, sometimes, we poets feel we must be oohing and aching about all poetry; it’s as if when we verbalise our dislike of a poem, somewhere, a puppy dies.*

Anyway, had I not had a big spend up in Waterstones beforehand, I might have bought Maggie Sawkins and Julian Stannard’s books. They were a bit more edgy and my taste is definitely more edgy and less ‘behold the fields of scattered dawn’ (none of them wrote that, I did, but you know what I mean…).

It was a positive trip and I got to meet one of the poets we have published through Paper Swans who was managing the event. There I was, scoffing a KitKat, drinking tea and trying to write something for the Magma competition and she was, ‘Sarah Miles!’ Always lovely to meet people in the flesh. She was Madelaine Smith and doing a fine job of organising everything!

 

* this is (a) not true and (b) a borrowed (bastardised) anecdote from a lovely fellow poet/writer.

Poetry in Motion

Last week I travelled north on the train to Edinburgh and spent Saturday lunch with some lovely friends who, thus far, I had only met online and via google hangouts for Open Mic nights. There are a lot of people I know who are striving to be a novelist, but not so many poets and it was so thrilling to finally share a glass of wine with Stephanie, Ellie and Helen.

As Ellie said, it was so lovely to have a conversation about writing without somebody blanking over as soon as you mention the word ‘poetry’. We chatted, we laughed, we read, we edited, we planned, we ate, we drank, we smiled. The lunch ended too soon (even if it was about 4 hours later!) and I wish we all lived nearer. Ellie, Helen and Stephanie all live in Scotland and I live just about as far south as you can get from Scotland.  However, we talked of a writers’ retreat and I hope we can organise ourselves a weekend away, somewhere halfway between Dundee and Kent, where we can carry on chatting and writing. Lovely, lovely ladies, all very talented poets and I am looking forward to the next Open Mic night (this Thursday!).

Poets

 

Writing-wise I have recently had work published by  Word Bohemia and a few weeks ago I won the poetry challenge over at Poetry Space. I have also been mulling over what direction to take next and have decided to have a go at some collected flash fiction. I am not sure if that is even a ‘thing’ but it will, hopefully, read as lots of little pieces of flash fiction which make up a bigger story. I say this with ‘new idea confidence’. Ask me in a month..

So, that’s me. Never enough time to write, but stealing moments here and there, usually very late at night when the house is quiet and my mind is bubbling over with words and ideas. Ever the night-hawk and definitely not a morning person!

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