Osteochondritis Dissecans

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“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

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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:

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.

 

 

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!

Growing Bolder Video

Here’s a short film made by me, about the excellent Growing Bolder project – funded by Bristol Ageing Better – and the performance we did at Avenue House care home (in Redland, Bristol) on 7th July. Enjoy!

There are more examples of videos I’ve made on the Word Rocket YouTube channel here.

And if you’d like me to make a film of your project or event – please get in touch.

NOT TODAY

Last week in my group with Off The Record, we looked at Andrew McMillan’s poem ‘TODAY’ from his great collection Physical (which you should buy too)…

Having read and reflected on it, we then thought about a space we know really well – and let our mind’s eye (‘floating camera’, as it were) loose around the space, writing about it (as McMillan’s poem does) in direct address (‘you’) and future tense (‘you will…’).

I thought I’d share my piece of writing that came from this exercise – it’s fascinating how changing tense and first/second/third person can affect the way one writes.

Perhaps inevitably, echoes of McMillan’s poem entered all the pieces of writing – so this is absolutely an exercise, response, and poem inspired by – and not something I’ll be taking ‘credit’ for as an original approach! (So thanks, Andrew, for the great poem and inspiration.)

NOT TODAY
– after Andrew McMillan

Today, you’ll step from the door
and into some chewing gum
the seagulls will serenade
the pigeons; the weather-
vanes will all point West.

Today you’ll see that all of the bricks
are spelt the same, that everyone’s faces
rhyme.. You’ll regret going to bed
so late, but you’ll do it again.

Today the binmen will curse
the randomness of the Lane, saying
They think glass is plastic and cardboard is clothing
and you’ll drink coffee as the break
lights glare at you.

Today the waiters of the Grand Hotel
will polish cutlery and their wit
the man with gnarly fingers
who collects the bridge toll
will run out of change and meet
his future wife as he seeks 50p’s
at the Crepe Affaire stall.

 

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.)