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 🙂


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.

 

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 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.

Extrasensory Perceptions: Fortean Poetry

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Though let’s be honest, it’s seriously slippery.

Some upcoming and ongoing projects:

I’m delighted to be running a weekend of Fortean Poetry for The Poetry School on May 11th and 12th at their base in Canada Water, London.

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…

(Feel free to connect telepathically, via ESP or EVP if any of these abilities are available to you.)


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).