BONES

A room with twelve skeletons; skulls all facing the same way. A bony choir: but what songs will they sing us? Songs from long ago – and songs of struggle, murder and conflict. Through poetry, flash fiction and discussion we’ll be inspired by craniums, tibias and mandibles, exploring what we feel in our bones. All skeletons have a tale to tell – what’s yours?Skeletons M Shed Workshop YP Info 2.8.17I’m running a young people’s workshop for young people aged 14-17 years at M Shed Bristol on 2nd August, exploring their Skeletons: Our Buried Bones exhibition…

It’ll be a rich & strange day, where I’ll be inviting the group to really get to know the bones on display and what they might think about all this, as well as thinking about our very own skeletons – we’ve all got one. Details above: please pass them on…

 

 

Poetry Please & Filmpoem

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Two Good Things:

My National Poetry Competition second prize winner, ‘The Desktop Metaphor’ was featured on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Poetry Please’ on the theme of ‘Work’ last Sunday – you can listen here.

The poem was also turned into a splendid filmpoem by Helmie Stil (above!) and you can watch the filmpoem here.

It’s been great for the poem to have a bit of a media flurry – the different responses to and aspects of the piece readers have found. The filmpoem brings out a wonderful darkness and playfulness in it, which I’ve really enjoyed – and hope you do too.

The other filmpoems of the top ten National Poetry Competition entries will be being screened at a special event – am looking forward to seeing them all.

NaPoReMo #1: A little support for NaPoWriMo

Just catching up on these: the poems + commentary formula is a really useful way of discovering more about reading and writing poetry…

The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

National Poetry Writing Month started in the US, but it belongs to us all now. Lots of you are having a go at writing a poem every day this month. Here once again is my own list of 30 brief prompts to give you a creative prod every day. Click here to see it and (I think) CTRL + click on each link within it, to see the poems I mention.

There’s one tool for writing good poetry that sometimes gets neglected during this month of frenetic writing. To write well, you have to read well. Read wide and deep, read things you don’t like as well as those you do, and ask each poem why it works – or doesn’t.

Every day this month, I’ll post a poem for you to read and think about. There will be classics and brand new poems, comic and tragic, complex and simple…

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National Poetry Competition 2nd Prize!

or, Putting on Your Proper Poet Hat

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It’s with huge delight I can now celebrate that I was awarded second prize in The Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition (NPC) 2016, with my poem The Desktop Metaphor.

Last Wednesday, we went to a prize-giving at the Savile Club in Mayfair – which was also the announcement for the Ted Hughes prize, which was originated and officiated by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy – and won this year by the brilliant Holly McNish, for Nobody Told Me.

It’s wonderful to see my poems ‘out there’ this month, with another soon to be in March’s Rialto. (And, of course, there’s the small matter of the £2000 prize money for the NPC – which is definitely the biggest cash prize I’ve ever won – eek!).

I’ve known about the prize since the beginning of February – and enter competitions quite regularly – so have been sitting on this information for quite a while, but for a select few confidants. It’s been interesting to notice my Inner Imposter piping up at times: What do you mean, you’ve won second prize in the National? Are you sure? Did they make a mistake?

The poem I entered was something of an experiment – one I felt like there was ‘something to’ which was slightly mysterious to me as well. So I thought: why not? Chuck it in, see what happens. The pamphlet I entered to The Rialto was full of experiments, too: this was one of the aspects which was favourably commented on in the feedback.

It’s immensely gratifying for another experiment to have won a main prize in such a pretigious competition. It’s made me realise that it’s one of the aspects of my writing which is strongest: to experiment, innovate, play around and take risks with poetry. Not all experiments will work – but some will, so it’s worth persisting with them, and enjoying the process. (Indeed the Ted Hughes prize is all about innovation – so why not keep trying?)

So I’m telling my Inner Imposter to sod off, and celebrating. Because for every one thing you win, there are many you don’t – and it’s easy to get stuck in an Imposter habit, as some kind of ‘hard hat’ for resilience, in this tough process of submitting work to journals & competitions.

Time to put the Inner Imposter in its bunker and  put on my Proper Poet hat. (No, it’s not a real hat – but you can imagine one if you like.)

It’s NaPoWriMo, after all – so a great time to go forth, and experiment!

Bony Orbit – Videopoem

A videopoem I made, based on some 1940s footage of How The Eye Functions, is now up on Atticus Review here, and embedded directly from YouTube below.

The piece was started over a two-day poetry filmmaking workshop in Bristol towards the end of last year – I recommend going on workshops/courses like this, to give youself spacetime/timespace to tinker and start something (not always easy to find otherwise).

It’s my hope to create more videopoems in the coming year – there’s a whole wealth of archive out there, just waiting to be moulded…

I hope you enjoy Bony Orbit, as puzzling as (I still think) it is:

Wyldwood Write On Video

I’ve just finished facilitating four sessions, working with Wyldwood Arts  – a group of 18-25 year olds from the Bristol Old Vic young producers worked with residents of Monica Wills House writing around the themes of Earth, Water, Fire and Air.

There was a lot of laughter and some really beautiful, playful and moving pieces of writing – and Wyldwood have made a wonderful short film which captures some of this. Here it is!

Rialto Pamphlet Competition – Shorlisted!

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Some exciting news: I’ve been shortlisted in The Rialto pamphlet competition 2017!

It’s their first pamphlet competition and a really exciting honour to be included in the final ten poets. It also means I’ll have a poem from the pamphlet in their next issue – very exciting.

A word about resilience and writing: last year I submitted a lot of work, to a lot of different publications and competitions. They very rarely ‘land’. And it can – and does – become very disheartening at times. (Indeed, I had just declared a ‘break’ from submitting when I heard about this one.) I think it’s really important we acknowledge times we’re feeling vulnerable, or somewhat defeated – we all experience these, and they’re normal.

But for me there’s something about the practice of poetry, as a way of seeing the world, that keeps me reading and writing it, even when it becomes infuriating. Once you have a real relationship with poetry, it’s something you commit to – and that means even when you have a rough patch and your peculiarities get on each other’s nerves…

So it’s wonderful when poems, or groups of poems, find a readership in judges, or editors – but to me, it’s an affirmation of that relationship and way of seeing and finding a way through the world.

I heard the quote above a while back and it really did ring true: reading and writing really is and must be its own reward. ‘Amateur’, by the way, means ‘lover’.

As Rialto Editor Fiona Moore says in her blog post about the process: “Read to write and write to read. Read to make it new.”

It’s about poetry, and finding a community of poets and – hopefully – some readers. (Poetry definitely ain’t about the money, eh?)

So (a wise woman once said): Keep Going.

 

 

The Literary Platform & NAWE Articles

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Making Fetch Happen in 360.

I’ve a couple of articles out there this week – the first is for The Literary Platform here, about Paul Hurley and my performance in September as part of the Bristol Biennial – have a read!

Also, I’ve an article for NAWE’s ‘Writing in Education’ about the Lapidus Day 2016 – which I organised. You can buy the magazine online, or join NAWE, or alternatively watch a video about the event here.

People, Places, Life at M Shed

In  February 2017, I’ll be running a seven-week creative writing course at M Shed Museum, Bristol harbourside.

Here’s a little film I made to tell you more about it:

And if you’d like to book, go to the WEA website here.

There’s info about the M Shed on its website here too.

See you there!

Workshop for Humans

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“intelligent, odd, scary”

This afternoon, I went to a ‘Workshop for Humans’ with Alex Bailey & Krõõt Juurak – after they came in yesterday afternoon to give a private performance for Barney (our border terrier). The performance – with a local agency news photographer present (you can see the video here) – was really interesting for Barney’s Humans (us) – and he definitely enjoyed aspects of it (as well as being a bit unnerved by others!).

As someone who doesn’t ‘do’ movement work – I found the workshop today really interesting, in trying to get a ‘felt sense’ of our favourite animals, not through words, but through movement (the animals’ ‘language’). I particularly enjoyed the ‘imprinting’ activity of having one’s limbs manipulated by others, holding in mind particular animals – a curious experience, and oddly, rather nice not to be in charge of my own body, for a bit.

One of the activities during session was apparently an old ‘personality test’ – the results of which I thought I’d share here.

We were asked to name our three favourite animals, in order, then to list three qualities we like about each, next to them. For me, this list looked like:

  1. Giraffe: elegant; clumsy; amazing run.
  2. Octopus: intelligent; odd; scary
  3. Dogs: loyal; playful; expressive.

Then we were told that – according to this old test – the first represents what we want to be (elegant, clumsy, amazing run), the second how others see us (intelligent, odd, scary) and the third who we really are (loyal, playful, expressive).

I’m fairly sure I’m clumsy already, not sure how scary anyone finds me (but might be wrong) – but was quite happy to ‘really’ be those dog things…