Swindon, Aldeburgh, Resources

Swindon Collage

Surreal objets, masks, The Tent Palace of the Delicious Air, Roy McFarlane performing, and the Poets’ Umbrellas.

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 šŸ™‚


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 writersĀ (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.

 

Dissertation, Publication, Projectification

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Ekphrasis for All! (See Max Literacy update below)

(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.


Publications

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.


Max Literacy

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 hereĀ 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.

Poembergs

Aldeburgh Tower

The Tower of Maps and Thread (there’s a title)

A few hurrahs: firstly, my poem ‘How to Preserve a Fatberg’ is up today on The Poetry Shedread only if you have a strong stomach, or a weak imagination.

I was also delighted to have been shortlisted in The Bridport Prize this year, and not for the poem I was expecting – hoping said poem (which remains in my ‘Available’ folder) will find a different home, soon…

Another two poems – also somewhat surprising ones – have found their way into the excellent Nine Arches Press journal, Under the Radar, which will be out in early 2019.

And finally, the delightful handmade journal Coast to Coast to Coast will be publishing another poem offering a queer perspective on a very straight ritual, also out in early next year. So quite a run of publications of late. (A Poemberg indeed.)

On Monday, I traipsed back from my home region of East Anglia, having been at Poetry in Aldeburgh – a glorious and exhausting Poemberg in itself. Among my highlights were: a hugly illuminating ten-minute crash course on a Tennyson In Memoriam poem; discovering new and enjoying already-known voices (I came away with a few books, including I Refuse to Turn into a Hatstand by Charlotte Whetten & Assembly Lines by Jane Commane); throwing myself into the ecopoetry sessions on Sunday – the very good winning poems in the Gingko Prize for ecopoetry (I especially loved Tuna) and the Hot Mess session. These two sessions really stirred up some ideas about intersectional and queer ecologies, and how important they are for me and my writing. And indeed for our human approaches to both ecology and gender identities. (I’m still processing all of that.)

I had the great privilege of reading at the Queer Studio event on Saturday, alongside Mary Jean Chan, Richard Scott and a fine company of fellow queer poets. It was great fun reading there, and I’m looking forward to getting out performing more often!

On which note, I’ll be doing a feature slot at Lines of the Mind at the Ropewalk pub, Bedminster – hope to see you there!

 

 

 

Weimar Win & More

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A still from The Desktop Metaphor

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.Ā  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 Differenceswhich 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.

 

Winchester Poetry Prize – Winner!

**UPDATED**

Somewhere to Keep the Rain cover

My poem is the winners’ anthology title!

I was double-thrilled & beyond delighted to find out that my poem, Somewhere To Keep The Rain – after Wen Ying-Tsai, Umbrella (1971) won first prize in this year’s Winchester Poetry Prize – judged by (2016 T S Eliot Prize Winner) Sarah Howe.

It’s always an honour to make it to any of the mentions in a competition – not least because, like many poets, I put a lot of time, love and energy into entering and submitting work here, there and everywhere.

I discovered that I’d won the first prize while I was on holiday – via Twitter! After which there might have been a *few too many Maltese cocktails* and a sore head the following day.

Having a poem which feels close to my heart recognised – and by such a renowned poet – is wonderful. It’s a piece which responded to a sculpture previously installed in the Tate Modern’s ‘Tanks’ space – and, for me, gives voice to those days when you feel exposed, raw somehow, and like the volume of the world is turned up to the max.

So it’s not just winning the competition – but that a poem which tries to encapsulate this feeling has been understood, that it has communicated – and now gives its title to the winners’ anthology (see above). I’m looking forward immensely to reading this, cover to cover.

When nods like this (or my National Poetry Competition Second Prize and Rialto Pamphlet shortlisting ealier this year ) come around, it’s good to celebrate and really notice – it gives us fuel to keep going. So: keep going!

As I couldn’t make it to the ceremony, I made this video reading of the poem – I hope you enjoy it:

Poetry Please & Filmpoem

Helmie Stil Filmpoem.PNG

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.

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 Ā£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 andĀ  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:

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.

 

 

Visual Verse: Pachycephalosaurus

I’m one of the featured writers this month, on the excellent Visual Verse

You can read my curious poem here – and then submit your own work, inspired by the same image.

It’s a great project to nurture writing inspired by images, something I really enjoy doing and put to use in workshops I run.

(One of the brains behind Visual Verse is also the brain behind The Curved House – which you should check out too: they do wonderful work on visual literacy.)