A quick post to share that I’ll be hosting creative groups for Key Stage 4 students initially (years 9 to 11) – with an emphasis on wellbeing – Tuesday afternoons, 2 – 2.50 (BST).
A belated and brief round-up of last year (I know – it’s nearly February, but midwinter just isn’t my time). 2019 was the year in which I:
Graduated from my MSc in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes (CWTP), with a dissertation focused on CWTP in museum and gallery settings. I’m immensely proud of the achievement and the training continues to provide me with valuable insights into group process and practical ways of getting the most of the wellbeing aspects of all the groups which I facilitate.
Received Arts Council Developing Your Creative Practice funding, to work on my first collection – hurrah! This is progressing nicely and I’m so enjoying the creative freedom to explore queering ecopoetics, more-than-human kinships and the intersections of technology and ecology…Watch this space for more info as that progresse
Worked on lots of projects and workshops, including:
- Max Literacy and Creative Cafeswith Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
- Beyond Words with Cheltenham Literature Festival – rounding off last year’s and beginning my second year as writer-in-residence for the project
- Sharing poems at Memory Cafes with Literature Works, with more coming up in February 2020
- Imagining detritivore spacecraft at We The Curious
- Working with a group of learning-disabled (and non-) artists to respond to the Outsider Art Collection at the Whitworth Museum and Art Gallery in Manchester
- Poet in Schools sessions for the Poetry Society
- Rounding off my Writer-in-Residencies and Lead Writer work for First Story (who sadly aren’t operating in the South-West anymore)
- Devising and co-hosting I’m Bitter About Glitter family workshops exploring gender and choice
- Pride month writing sessions with Toby Campion at Leicester LGBT youth groups
- Writing and performing a commission for the National Poetry Competition at 40 celebrations
- Creating a resource for the National Poetry Competition which you can find here
- Co-hosting primary school sessions (to be concluded in February 2020) with Josh and Rosie of the astonishing Impermanence Dance Theatre, exploring conflict and reconciliation around their splendid dance film The Ballet of the Nations.
It’s no wonder one gets a little tired and needs a midwinter break, eh?
2020 is off to a vibrant start with publications and projects, including:
- A selection of my poems on Molly Bloom, here
- My poem ‘Screenwash’ will be Poem of the Month in Bristol 24/7in February
- A cephalopod poem of mine will be appearing in Envoi in April
- A Section 28-inspired poem appearing in Lighthouse in April
- I’ll have a (jellyfish/climate change/Dylan Thomas) poem in the Dear Dylan anthology from Indigo Dreams in spring
- An LGBT+ schools creative writing resource will be on the First Story website in time for LGBT+ History Month in February
- I’m currently writing a resource for the Foyle Young Poets teacher resource book – more on this once it’s out in the world.
This is also the year I hope to complete my first collection and move it towards publication – which is very exciting indeed!
In these strange and troubled times, I’m extremely appreciative that my work is creative, helpful to others and fulfilling for me. May your work be so for you, too.
Just back from the Big Poetry Weekend in Swindon: such a warm, cosy, collaborative and connective happening. It was my first one and I was struck by how the scale of it and the location made it incredibly rich: a smaller collective, engaging deeply with the work and each other, in the Tent Palace of the Delicious Air (a small marquee) in the garden of the Richard Jeffries Museum.
My highlights were: working on voices and masks with Fiona Benson (and her powerful, intense reading); Hilda Sheehan’s workshop on (a hungover) Sunday; the richness and quality of the open mic sessions; re-engaging and feeling energised about filmpoetry, and Nuar Alsadir‘s incredibly inspiring talk and reading – which really fired me up again about experimental, intuitive, interdisciplinary poetry.
I’m delighted to be running a session on Queering Ecopoetry at Poetry in Aldeburgh next month. This is an area I’ve been researching, reading and writing around since summer and it’s been extremely creatively rich. I’ll have poems, activities and critical quotes to share. It’ll be playful, interactive and – I hope – fabulously illuminating. British ecopoetry is, I think, overdue a good queering.
Here’s a video of some Nu-Rave eye-tentacled ‘zombie snails’ (famous from social media lately) to get you excited by the gloriously monstrous, colourful, permeable and interdepedent aspects of that lovely, pure ‘nature’ out there 🙂
Resources and Articles:
Over the last year, I’ve worked on a number of resources, some of which are out in the world and others currently in development. Here’s a run-down (I’ve been busy!):
- A commission from the Poetry Society, here’s some inspiration for the National Poetry Competition, a resource based on two of my favourite past winners
- Our Max Literacy ‘Talking Pictures’ resource will be available soon, through their website here – it’ll give a range of activities for primary age writers to engage with an art gallery and stage their own ‘living gallery
- In collaboration with the Bristol Museums Service, I’ve also worked on a redesigned Arts Award booklet – which will enable young writers to achieve their Discover level award through writing about artwork in any gallery. More info on their Arts Award programme, here.
- With a different museum collaborator, I was part of a team who developed the ArtBox, a resource for people living with dementia and their carers to engage with St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child, a loaned painting on display in the City Museum & Art Gallery. This evolved from some Creative Cafe sessions I’d hosted there and the outputs of other creative sessions. The finished ArtBox is a thing of great beauty, with a poem around the lid I wrote from words from the sessions, as well as a magnetic poetry set inspired by the painting and our groups’ responses to it.
- Over winter, I worked on an LGBT+ creative writing resource for First Story – this is in the pipeline and I’ll add a link next year in time for LGBT History Month in February
- Finally, I’ve written an article on Resilience for freelance writers (a subject, of course, close to my heart!) which will be in an upcoming National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE) journal.
It’s great that so many of the projects I’ve worked on, from First Story to the Museum work, is translating into resources which I hope will support others’ creativity. More on the upcoming resources once they’re ready!
I’ll do another Queer Ecopoetry update after my session in Aldeburgh, this time next month.
(No, projectification is not a word – but I just needed to finish the ‘-ification’ thing, OK?)
CWTP MSc Dissertation
A quick update on a few things – most notably that: I’ve passed my Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes (CWTP) MSc Dissertation!
The dissertation focused on ways in which CWTP might be used in a museum or gallery setting, so there was a huge amount to think about – particularly materiality, working with objects, decolonising museum spaces (or trying to!), poetry as a research methodology and transcriptions re-presented as poetry…
It was, admittedly (or perhaps rightly), the most challenging (OK: difficult) piece of writing I’ve yet had to do! It really stretched my abilities and thinking through the rigour of writing in the Social Science thesis format.
Very little had been written before specifically focusing on CWTP or writing for wellbeing in museums and galleries, which meant it was both a useful exercise (I hope) and there was a lot of bringing things together.
I’m looking forward to graduating with my coursemates in July. The course was through Metanoia Institute and accredited through Middlesex University – and you can find out more about it here.
It’s been a good year so far for publications, I’m delighted to have had poems in:
the gorgeously handstitched Coast to Coast to Coast;
Nine Arches Press’ excellent journal Under the Radar;
the beautifully-produced (and pleasingly anonymously-selected!) Butcher’s Dog.
There are long swathes of time when nothing finds a home anywhere – so it’s really pleasing when some of one’s work (and really often not the poems you’re expecting) find homes in such wonderful company and in such carefully- and lovingly-produced journals.
Nobody’s in poetry for the money! For me, though, that’s part of what makes it such a wonderful ecology, to me. Yes, it’s difficult to make a living, but hell yes – people who thrive in poetry do so through their passion*.
There’s potential progress on my first single-authored pamphlet, but I’ll update on this once it’s more definite!
*Also: asking to be paid; being boundaried; working hard; being nice & being efficient.
I was very lucky to work with Bristol Museum and Art Gallery – with whom I’ve worked a great deal in the last few years – and Compass Point School on a Max Literacy Award project from January – March this year.
It was my pleasure to work with the year two and five classes in the school, who were immense fun. Writing creatively about art and objects is such a brilliant, nourishing thing to do – I hope they’ll feel confident and excited to go into more museums and galleries, equipped with pen(cil) and paper, and explore with their senses and their imaginations.
There’s an article about the project here and we’re in the process of developing and finalising the resources to go on their website. Watch this space.
National Writing Day
There’s a little video I made for the National Writing Day website, on the topic of Why I Write – which you can watch, here.
NB: this video was made while in the middle of CWTP dissertation writing, so excuse the bags under the eyes and the slightly lost look! That said, the MSc has made my processes so much clearer to me – so a good way of bringing this update full circle.
Keep reading, writing and exploring – I will be.
I’ve started using Trello as a way of keeping track of my poertry submissions to competitions and journals – and have found it a really useful way of doing so.
As such, I thought I’d make a template to share for others to use, if you’re so Trello-inclined.
It’s very important you click on the right hand Menu –> More –> Copy Board, then save it as a PRIVATE board for your own system. Otherwise, everyone will be able to see/use it! This is a *public template* to start your own.
There’s also a list of journal windows which is on the board to the left – click through and you’ll find it.
I hope the board is useful! You can find it here:
Some upcoming and ongoing projects:
How can our writing explore the edges of our understanding – or even beyond it?
How might we engage with phenomena or experiences beyond the ‘normal’ in our poetries?
Hope to see you there…
This morning, we had the last of six workshops of the Beyond Words project with Cheltenham Literature Festival.
We’ve created manifestos in Victorian classroom of Gloucester Life Museum, spooky stories in Manor by the Lake, explored haiku (and had our own Gingko Walk) in the snowy grounds of Sudeley Castle, discovered our Power Animals in the Nature in Art Gallery, and today created paint colour and praise poems in The Wilson, Cheltenham.
Now it’s on to creating our anthology – and I’m so looking forward to seeing this progress. The group have been wonderful and it’s been a treat to work in all these inspiring locations.
Tomorrow, I’ll be back up in Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, for our next Max Literacy Award workshop. I’m working with the museum service and Compass Point Primary school on developing ways to engage kids in the painting collections there – and we’ve been trying out inhabiting our expertise through ‘Nom de Plumes’ and ‘Expert Name’ personae.
We’re working towards the creation of resource boxes for those visiting the Museum and to go out to schools. It’s a deligthful challenge and continues to bring together my love of both visual art, museums and creative writing (especially poetry, of course).
A busy couple of weeks with Cheltenham Literature Festival workshops, amongst other things…
Last Saturday, I hosted What If You Couldn’t Polari ‘I Love You’? at the Lit Crawl event, a fun & poignant session
We started looking at Polari – a quick intro – a bijou clipette of literary-infused Julian and Sandy, got a bit of conversational chat, mixed it in with the special ‘lingos’ from our lives, then created a group poem of what we do or say, instead of those things we can’t say.
Here’s the resulting poem – shared with the group’s permission, and anonymised anyhow. It’s an activity I’ll try again and know that the ‘deflections’ or alternatives to what we can’t say will be so different every time:
Because I Can’t Say It
I say I’d love to! and I will do that right now!
I get extremely fucking polite. So cold it burns.
I smile and nod in sympathy.
I resort to social niceties.
I say would you like a cup of tea?
I nod my head, grit my teeth, and think of Australia.
I say to other people what I would say to them. Download!
I look at my mate, who I know is thinking the same thing,
we both hold our gaze for just long enough to acknowledge
each other, but not long.
I make up nicknames for them.
I say I will do it!
I sing out loud in the shower.
I say Thank you.
I say I’m sorry.
I say It’s fine (when it’s not).
I give him a book or a poem that says it for me.
I say Oooh…what do you think?
I bring him a coffee, a kiss and a smile.
I crack self-deprecating jokes.
I make puns that say it unnoticed.
I smile and say You’re welcome.
I say Does it make a difference?
I scream into my pillow.
I only wish I’d remembered the marvellous poem Oral English by Sheenagh Pugh – which is the most elegant treatment of Polari, Julian & Sandy, and the wider implications of it all – in one poem. You can find that in Double Bill: Poems Inspired by Popular Culture.
Today, I hosted a morning session entitled Red Wheelbarrow Beat Club, where we looked at some ‘Buddhish’ and Buddhist poems, especially relating to objects, pointing-out and the Beat poet, Allen Ginsberg.
We wrote our own versions of pointing-out poems such as The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams, had a go at Ginsberg’s American Sentences (and invented British Sentences), and explored other poems by Buddhist Lama (teacher) Chogyam Trungpa and contemporary Buddhist (amazing) poet, Chase Twichell.
Here are some of my efforts from the session:
Something Chogyam Trungpa-inspired…
A printer is always frustrated
A printer is always frustrated because it stutters.
Paper clips are chipper and grippy.
A laptop is busy going to sleep.
A poet wallows in ink.
A window without frame or glass
And a house without walls or roof
Are inviting in the autumn wind
The ink which the sky provides
Something Wheelbarrow inspired…
so much depends
the wooden clothes
nestled with its
along our washing
A Ginsberg-style 17-syllable non-haiku American Sentence…
Sign reads: 24 HOURS A DAY, 7 DAYS A WEEK. And then: CLOSED.
What was lovely about these poems is how kids could engage with them, too – a session I’ll run again in future.
I’m also looking forward to starting work as this year’s writer-facilitator, on the Beyond Words project with the Literature Festival soon, too – and will aim to write some updates about our writing excursions and incursions, into inspiring locations…
Just back from a double whammy of festivals – Green Man and Shambala. Knackered! Both were very splendid happenings indeed.
Will post more fully about those once I’ve recovered – but in the meantime, here’s a Kit-Kat inspired poem up on Poetry 24 a while back and I forgot to post here.
I’m also performing at Satellite of Love on September 12th at the Greenbank Pub in Easton, Bristol – do come along. Event information is here.
Today, I’m in Nova Hreod Academy in Swindon for National Writing Day. This morning we created Recipes for Poetry on a Sunny Day, en masse, with the poetry-generator-coding-machine (which is the young people’s brains, really).
I love bringing in these Surrealist approaches to writing, which smash elements together in peculiar ways and make duly peculiar images.
Soon I’ll be lugging my bag of newspapers and magazines into a found poetry and cut-ups session, which is always good, messy fun and reconnects us with words as things.
Take some time to think unusual thoughts and manifest them in words today! And maybe, every day…
Also, you can listen to my poem ‘Hands’ on the A Poem A Week podcast through the following link. I hope you enjoy it – Happy National Writing Day!
Some good newses to celebrate & projects to update!
Firstly, the filmpoem by Helmie Stil of my piece The Desktop Metaphor won the Jury Award at The Weimar Filmpoetry Festival! There’s more information about that here – and you can watch the piece at that link too. Helmie did a wonderful job with the poem; I love the film’s style and rhythm.
I’ve also just agreed to be the writer-facilitator on the Cheltenham Literature Festival project, Beyond Words. As the project website says:
In any given year, over 600 children In Gloucestershire are unable to access mainstream schooling due to conditions like cancer, eating disorders, epilepsy, and orthopaedic, neurological and respiratory disorders. The majority of these young people are aged between 14 and 16.
Working with the Gloucestershire Hospital Education Service (GHES), Cheltenham Festivals is giving every KS4 student the opportunity to work over time with a writer-in-residence, either in person or via a digital learning platform.
This is a wonderful opportunity to bring together my work with poetry, writing for wellbeing, young people and working in inspirational settings…Including museums, galleries and – hopefully – some which inspire the group about the more-than-human world. I’ll post up more information later in the year; it’s going to be a wonderful project.
Recently, I’ve been delivering some school workshops for Bristol City Museums Service alongside the Grayson Perry exhibition The Vanity of Small Differences – which tell the story of Tim Rakewell though six splendid tapestries. We’ve been exploring taste, class and Stuff, enjoying those details of our material lives which can say so much about us.
Finally, this week I became a Dementia Friend – having been on the training with some fellow artists at Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery. This is ahead of workshops we’ll be delivering for those living with dementia, around the paintings there – particularly Saint Luke Painting the Virgin and Child, recently acquired by the Museum in collaboration with others.
Oh, there’s also the small matter of an MSc Dissertation to get written…
Further updates a little later in the year.