Varder ‘er at Chelt Lit Fest

Polari Writing with the Palones of Chelt Lit Fest

Polari Writing with the Palones of Chelt Lit Crawl

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 scowl.
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…

The Peg

so much depends
upon

the wooden clothes
peg

nestled with its
siblings

along our washing
line.

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…

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Kit-Kats & Satellite of Love

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.

 

 

National Writing Day & A Poem A Week

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!

 

 

 

 

Weimar Win & More

Desktop Metaphor EyePhone Still

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.  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.

 

Avant-Gardes & Manifestos

From January 23rd, I’ll be hosting a five-week fortnightly course, Letting Your Avant-Garde Down, at Hours here in Bristol.

I’m delighted to be working with The Poetry School, who are a great force for making poetry happen, and bringing people together to discover and delight in the process.

There’s an interview with me here about the course – do come along and we’ll explore together what ‘the avant-garde’ (if there is such a thing) can do for your writing, and what you can bring to the newest, yet-to-be-imagined avant-gardes, too…

Fortuitously, the film Manifesto, starring a chameleonic Cate Blanchett, is out at the moment – I’ll be going to see it next week. Might be a rather marvellous way of introducing oneself to the Ghost of Avant-Gardes Past.

Here’s the trailer:

Four In a Forest: A Bedtime Story

Earlier in September, I was invited by Knowle West Media Centre to write a ‘bedtime story for an artists’ at their Artist Hotel sleepover.

I borrowed guided relaxation techniques from solution-focused hypnotherapy (thanks, Emma Edwards / Shine for tips on doing so safely), animal creation myths, and lovely rhyming bedtime stories: a bit of A A Milne lyricism, a splash of Dr Seuss sass, with some Channel 4 reality formats thrown in…

The story used the animal characters and dreamy rhyme to invite the artists present (and now you) to become relaxed, and explore ideas of home, hospitality – to picture a scenario where we invite everyone in, to a perfect home, for a perfect soiree.

So I recorded the script as I read it, here – so find yourself somewhere comfy for a sit down and to relax with it – ideally before bed. And especially if you’re hosting, or going to be hosting, any kind of soiree, workshop, or event.

I hope that the story generates some interesting images in your unconscious of perfect hospitality – and feel free to comment below with any experiences and reflections about these themes.

Osteochondritis Dissecans

art-made-by-nature-dried-up-river-delta-960x630

“desecrated spaces, the rivers
of me, these capillaries drying up
at their tips”

Last Wednesday, I ran the last workshop (of four) at M Shed museum, around their excellent Skeletons exhibition.

As well as spending time with loads of brilliant young writers, from three schools and those who’d come to the summer holiday workshop – I felt like I’d gotten to know those bones rather well.

Being as I like to model reading out writing I’ve just written, I did a lot of it before and during the sessions. We looked at Simon Armitage’s poem Ankylosing Spondilitis (which appears in the anthology Signs and Humours: The Poetry of Medicine) during the workshops – and I encouraged participants to find a term in the exhibition and write around it. This is what I came up with:

Osteochondritis Dissecans
– after Simon Armitage, Ankylosing Spondylitis
– for all the Skeletons.

Osteo – relating to the bones
chond – conned – chondritis – itis
which makes things inflammatory
and dissecans – like desiccated coconut
like desecrated spaces, the rivers

of me, these capillaries drying up
at their tips, ceasing to flow, ground
of my bones splintering, tilting up
sharp fragments of bark
into the soft skies of my muscles
which mutter a low moan of it,
swear, quietly, with every step.

Can you help me? I’m shattered,
shattering – an intricate vase
hitting the ground in slow-motion.
Maybe you can hit pause, press stop.
Maybe some day you’ll be the one
to find some new language, a spell
before I am too broken
for superglue, to tape up.

Please: find the words. Speak them, a titanium prayer.

(Mis)Behaviour at Green Man

I'm So Angry I Made a Sign

I’ll be leading some witty, silly, Petty Protest at Green Man Einstein’s Garden this year, as part of their theme of (Mis)Behaviour.

We’re going to be drilling down into the most pedantic and peculiar pet-hates, forming instant campaign groups with the perfect acronyms, and equipping ourselves with some poetic & comedic tools to make the best placards possible – then heading out with out whistles to cause a bit of a commotion around the festival site…

Then you can go back out into this increasingly-parodic world, ready to turn your new-found protesting skills to something else.

Because let’s face it: there’s plenty that’s not petty to protest about.

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

kunst

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!