29 Apr 2011

UK women poets website directory

Just added myself to this.
(Glad I had my technician daughter Natasha age 12, to help me with all the techie stuff.)

What a good idea A-Gender is. It says this on the home page:

"A-Gender was formed in 2010, initially as a Google discussion group, as a result of perceived gender bias on the UK literature scene, by a group of female poets. It was observed that significantly more women than men attend creative writing classes, and are published in ‘starting out’ publications such as The New Writer, but that the higher up one travels into the upper echelons of literature – the prize short lists, and the publications with the highest kudos (the LRB, the TLS), the less women are apparent. "

Take a look here:http://a-gender.org/poets/lucy-lepchani

20 Apr 2010

Theatre Royal, Plymouth

My occasional work in schools ratcheted up a notch this January, when the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, contracted me to work on several projects:
1. to lead the youth Theatre 'Young Company' writing group for ten weekly sessions, with a focus on performance poetry/ monologues for performance;
2. to work in two schools - Goosewell Primary and Hyde Park Junior School - for 8 or 10 weekly sessions on the Theatre's 'School Ties' project - writing and completing to performance standard, play-scripts with yr 5 children;
3. and some single sessions with other education or community projects. I can, and will, write more about each of these in forthcoming blogs.

It's just like that saying we have about buses: wait for hours and not a thing, then three come along at once. So after a quiet-ish autumn (a few private clients wanting text; a couple of jobs in schools)I was suddenly looking at full-time work, overall; planning and evaluating sessions at home, writing up the children's work into scripts, commuting to Plymouth most days, in a car with no heating and some dramatic snowy intervals. Juggling this with WEA courses, other occasional work commitments, family, studying...

Snow & ice can be especially annoying in rural areas; the main roads are gritted but the smaller roads are often not. It can be that a longer journey cannot be made because half a mile of small-town lanes have not been gritted. So, poet on the bus, walking the distance from Plymouth City Centre to Theatre Royal's TR2 building on its Cattedown outskirts; two pairs of gloves and a multitude of layers and sturdy boots striding out. I had to treat myself to some new ones, of course.

I loved it. Sometimes it is quite an enjoyable thing to suffer for one's art.

Image: courtesy of Theatre Royal, Plymouth.

Published by Acumen Publications

I have enough poetry to be published in an anthology, and have been thinking for some time about who, in an ideal world, I would like to publish it.
As a newcomer, the larger publishing houses are unlikely to be interested. So I narrowed it down to three or four companies who might like my style, themes, etc; and who are active in the world or both publishing and performing.
I first approached Acumen Publications who have published 2 of my poems and one literary article in their excellent magazine, and who gave me a 'launch' performance during Torbay Poetry Festival 2006 and empolyed me to run a workshop in 2007.

'No, we don't publish any anthologies' said editor Patricia Oxley, in an email. 'But we do publish occasional pamphlets. If you would like me to consider this, please initially send me 6 poems.'

So I did; and then she asked for more; and I now have a pamphlet due out this month (May 2010).
It is called 'The Beckoning Wild' and has a cover picture that is a photograph of a painting by Brenda Rogers. I am really looking forward to it being in the world

ACUMEN POETRY: http://www.acumen-poetry.co.uk/.

'...and then she said...'

Last autumn, I had the privilege of collaborating on the creation of a cabaret in spoken word, with spoken word artist Sara Hurley and musician Rachel Miller. Piloting the event as 'A Feast of Spoken Word' in a charismatic local venue, the St. Lawrence Chapel, in Ashburton. We sold every last ticket as bums crowded seats! Lots of enthusiastic feedback, too.

Since then, we have gone on to tweak our performances a little, have re-branded the show as '..and then she said...' and are looking for bookings. Now. Please contact one of us if you would like to make a booking or see an upcoming show...

The artists: myself - performing ‘Landscape, Portrait,’ a selection of poems.

Sara Hurley: An actor and storyteller by night, and educator and community artist by day. Sara also directs creative arts company ‘Blazing Tales.’

She performs: ‘River’- a celebration of a changing landscape inhabited by haunting memories. Stories of human frailty and failure twist and turn with only the power of the nature at their side. Hear the river’s ancient chorus and see its heart, briefly revealed, in a new show with present day relevance.
‘River’ is composed for The River Dart, in Devon, a place that has inspired many artists over time. It is an invitation to a specific river, although its themes are universal.

Rachel Miller: Musician, Composer, Storyteller.
She performs: 'Selkie', a classic Celtic myth about a seal woman who has her skin stolen by a lonely hunter. It is a soulful and sensual tale of love, loss and longing.
Modern sound technology meets the poetic world of myth and music in these stunning solo shows. Rachel plays a wide variety of musical instruments, live on stage, and builds up evocative and beautiful textures of music and sound that conjure the images and emotions of a tale. The tale is told through a lyrical narrative written by poet Gwen Woolley.

'A mesmerising, hypnotic performance which transports you to another plane. Storytelling at it’s finest’. Barbican Theatre, Plymouth

'A captivating storyteller, creating a rich and atmospheric world, mysterious and delightful"
Sharon Gal, Resonance 104.4FM Radio, London.


Wild Words

This is the name of a class I teach for the Workers Educational Association. It runs every September for 6 weeks, and then January for 6 weeks, in the music room at Foxhole, Dartington, near Totnes in Devon.

I designed the course to encourage new writers to engage more deeply with their own creative process; to understand the unique shape of it, and the forces that reside there. It is crammed with exercises and techniques aimed at enriching language, inviting inspiration and dissolving blocks. We learn practical literary skills, engage with drama games, and use sensual, evocative resources such as fruit or other items from nature; artefacts, clothing, picture cards, published poems. I give a lot of energy and attention to the process and get to know each person's strengths and potentials as best as I can.

My learners always surprise, enthrall, move, and delight me with their work and their progress, and course feedback always leaves me with a beautiful, crystal clear sense of why it is that I do this work.

Further details from www.wea.org.uk

Catching up...

I have been so busy, that I am writing this in retrospect. All my good intentions to keep up have gone the way of the diaries of my youth. The present is always more engaging, the creative impulse always winning over the reflective moment. So, a few fleeting entries here in an attempt to get up to date.

Back in September I attended a workshop led by American Poet Jay Leeming. I love Jay's work - if you haven't come across him, heres his website link:http://www.jayleeming.com

The workshop was organised by Moor Poets, who are a local group that promotes poets, and the reading, writing, and performing of poetry. Their anthology publications are full of high quality work. Here's a link to Moor Poets website too: www.moorpoets.org.uk

Hares logo by Petra Tilly

They have an engaging new pamphlet, 'Wild Thoughts' that came out last year. One of my many tasks was the desktop publishing of all the poems into the booklet - other people had initially been engaged to do the task but had to cancel, and the project had a deadline. Not too demanding a task until I got to the printing. I have vowed before, never to get involved in printing, but what could go wrong, I thought? I had two excellent printing machines to work with. After a few pages rolled out I engaged in yet another tense, painful education about the compatibility of certain printers with certain settings on the software - and this time I absolutely vow to never, ever, ever, get involved in printing in bulk, ever, ever again.

The poems are wonderful, though, and a former student from my creative writing classes has some work in the pamphlet, as do I one written at Jay's workshop.

12 Nov 2009

The Glór Sessions

Got back to Dublin the following Monday, showered off the mud in the hostel, rested, went to meet Dennis at his hostel.
We walked through Dublin talking about being in love with Dublin, understanding why James Joyce wanted his heart buried here, how the buildings and bridges and street speak in some way that we recognise in our blood. Dennis has an Irish surname, an Irish parent. My ancestors are Irish further back - can our DNA remember it here, we wonder? Stop by on our way to the International Bar to hear some buskers with pipes, bodhrun, fiddle: and nearly cry or dance or something of that overwhelming nature with the passion of it.

We have been invited to the International Bar, by poet Stephen James Smith, who runs the Glor Sessions (glór means: voice, sound or noise) a weekly spoken-word, poetry and music night. Stephen welcomes us, buys us Guinness.
'The Girls' from the Picnic turn up (almost unrecognisable in mud-free attire) with hiusbands and friends. They are here to give us support and to enjoy the show - I can see how tired they are after the weekends exploits. These are women who know how to enjoy their drink! (And they made sure that I did too.)

It was an excellent evening of words and tunes, and a spirited audience in the beautifully built International Bar with its wooden floors and polished, old oak bar-tops and beams throughout, and frame-mirrored walls .

What I especially love about Irish audiences, is that they use their ears to actually listen, not just to hear things with. In England, or at least in the south as it is familiar to me: if there's a run of funny poets at the open mike, and a serious one comes along, or a nature poet, or a gentle voice - the energy often drops; sometimes turns chilly. The literary poet is judged differently for their capabilities than the sometimes less literary, entertaining one. The symbiotic relationship of energy between audience and performer, fails somewhat.

In Ireland, they pay attention to what's being said with... easy to say 'greater respect', but I wonder if it's more than good manners, sensitivity. It's as if they just have more appetite for the spoken word. (Even at the Electric Picnic when I took to the stage slightly ill and distinctly lacking pizazz - a man in the audience spoke to me softly afterwards, said he's especially liked the one that...and so on. He had really listened.) One person in the audience, a man called Gerry, befriended Dennis and I with much enthusiasm. If I had had any more Guinness to drink, not only would I have not been able to speak my poems but would probably have burst into a heartfelt rendition of Irish nationalist folk songs. (Not that I know the words more than a few lines of 'the Wind That Blows the Barley'.)

Stephen James Smith compered with panache, and shared poems too. Enda Reilly's music was especially excellent, and I bought his CD 'Oxygen 21', (the title track of which has now become a fond favourite with friends and family.)

I've never had an encore for my poetry until that night. Dennis, who took to the stage after me, received one also. So many compliments, every one of them truly meant. We have both been invited back anytime.
I am interested in finding any ways I can possibly muster the funding to do so. A poetry tour of Ireland is definitely somewhere in my future plans.

Dennis and I walked back to our hostels, blowing kisses to the Liffey, high as kites and in love with Dublin all over again.
We said goodbye for now; promising to be partners in rhyme again some vague time in the near future - our separate ferries sailing back to Blighty on the cold grey sea in the morning.

Ha'Penny Bridge - Image courtesy of Tourism Ireland Imagery

Electric Picnic loses the plot.

photo taken by Tony Walsh: Me & Dennis Just Dennis (with skeleton facepaint) at the Electric Picnic 2008.

The Electric Picnic takes place in the grounds of the Stradbally Estate, Portlaoise, Ireland, every year.

My experience there in 2008 was so amazing, I wondered if this year would be shadowed by my memories of it. The shadows were much more real and disappointing than that could have been: but whether by the logistic incompetence or the skinflint capitalism of the organisers, I do not know which.

What is brilliant about Ireland is the warmth and hospitality of the people. Unlike the British: they talk to you, to each other, on trains, at bus-stops, in bars, and anywhere else where strangers might become better acquainted.
Last year, I camped next to fellow Brit poets Dennis Just Dennis and Tony Walsh, and we were befriended by three young Irish women: Sam, Rachel and Michelle, who also came to see and hear our poetry and as a result became interested and inspired by poetry in general. (I love it when that happens!). 'The Girls' as we fondly called them, met up with Dennis and myself this year (Tony couldn't make it - we all really missed him!) and joined by their friend Sarah, continued where we left off last year with their generous and inclusive friendship. How amazing it is to find such a welcome in another country.

It was also so good to see gain, Marty Mulligan, who runs many spoken word projects but largely, the Leviathan poetry tent in the Electric Picnic's Mindfield. Marty seems to have endless energy for keeping the tent/stage/random poets/audience/sometimes strange audience members in the right place at the right time. I don't know how he manages it; and he performs his poems from memory (I still carry my little black book everywhere like a security blanket) and sings in a band at the end of the day, AND manages to look relatively mud-free and suave in a black suit and shades. Laid back, mellow, yet on the ball, Marty Mulligan is honourable, and cool. He has just inspired that line to rhyme too.

Dennis and I did a show together at the EP last year: The Race for the Write-house: with Bollock O'Barmy and Hilarious Clingon. Alluding to USA politics of that time, our sham-slam politically based poetry set ended with us encouraging our audience to 'vote poetry'.

This year, Den and I had nothing new to share, but both having written new poems that went in slightly different literary directions, we performed separate sets.
I ended up doing two: one on Saturday one on Sunday.
I felt ill during my first one. Nothing thwarts a performance more than needing a chair on stage because you have a headache and dizziness, and the fect that you might throw up any minute. Luckily, a quiet and appreciative audience responded well and I recovered from what was probably exhaustion and a bit of hypothermia.
The rain was intermittent but the cold wind whipped. There were no fires around which I could get warm.
Paella, hot chocolate, and a medical heat-pack I had bought 'for emergencies' made me feel much better. Later that evening, I sat round the fire in the 'body and soul' area, recovered, told poems impromptu in 'The Big Chair', drank a lot, enjoyed music.
Next day, my short set worked better as my inner rhythms did their thing in harmony with the words as they came out of my mouth. Applause. Phew.

I loved hearing the Poetry Chicks again. Their combination of feisty politics and erudite grace let loose by tongues that hark back to the mysteries rhyming powers of the Greek Chorus, Pamela Brown and Abby Oliveira are something else. Impressed by eloquent Belfast poets Chelley McClear and friends' polished show. Kate Tempest (who will one day be a name known worldwide, and who leaves me open-mouthed in awe, and who is also a sweet, wild, good-hearted woman) and Salena Godden jamming together with music and madness of the Book Club Boutique. Dennis Just Dennis commanding a storm of applause again, getting offered bookings to other shows. Ophelia rocking rhythms in the Irish tongue. Marty Mulligan's rhyming and timing and Irish heart. Raven being entirely brilliant, tender, powerful.
I love the poetry tent.
I missed it when I went anywhere else - but everywhere else up in the Body & Soul area was also a great place to be.

Back to my griping. I have seen better organisation at 1980's anarchist free-festivals where there was no organisation other than a sense of common humanity; greater 'duty of care' at impromptu roadside raves and more common sense at a Village Idiots Gathering (Chanctonbury 1987, in fact.)
The severe lack of toilets at this festival led to obscenely blocked loos and several sewage leaks -gallons of it..Toilet queues were the worst of any festival I have been to since a particularly vile WOMAD some years back; shit piled high, no handwashing facilities, gel run out after half an hour not refilled til next day. Good thing it was cooler weather, or we'd have all got dysentery. Caged in our camping field by locked metal fences and a security guard (with no spanner) at the narrow exit to the field (thank god someone vandalised the fence at a couple of points) no fire buckets or exits, deep wide mud-flats, crap all over the woods...it was a nightmare, comparable to a hedonists' refugee camp. Security people and site crew overworked, worse camping facilities than ours, and many of them furious with their tosspot boss ( the one with the headphones.) The recycling facilities, held together by devoted and hard-working individuals, was ultimately unworkable chaos.

The organisers let down the entire festival; the outstanding arts, top bands and impromtu small stages, endless innovative sounds, the spirit of the Electric Picnic and the beautiful Irish people, and festivalgoers of all ages: ripped-off by a bunch of posturing gobshites.

Croissant Neuf Summer Party

Croissant Neuf Summer Party
is these days called a 'boutique' festival. Apparently. It's what all the best festivals used to be like 'back in the day'...before we were inflicted with festival licensing, security fences and overpriced marketing tat; and when political vision was more commonly and appreciatively held in the activist hands of the festival goer.

Croissant Neuf truck - photo taken from their website.

True to its grass roots, Croissant Neuf boasts "The world's largest portable Solar Powered P.A. system." and which blasts out the volume from the main stage, lights the little fairy lights around stalls, yurts marquuees, lights essential stalls and venues - and all powered by the sun (and a little from windmills, too).

I enjoyed running a poetry workshop; later loved sharing the stage to do a set of poems in Cafe Seren but especially enjoyed compering the open mike and hearing new open-mikers, some poets reading their work in public for the first time, including an eleven year old girl and a man in his forties. I love it when new poets stand up and share their voices, ply their written craft into new shape for their voices.

Whilst CNSP would do well to encourage more performance poets at futire events - theirs is an audience that seem to greatly appreciate and enjoy spoken word - I did enjoy discovering two spokenword/poetry acts that combine their words with music: Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer, who held an audience-packed Cafe Seren in frenzied, dancing hysteria; and the unique, enchanting storytelling rhymes and wordsmithery of Quercus Burlesque. I will be looking out for gigs by these folk in the future. I want more!

I loved the whole festival. Sean running ongoing green-woodworking and wood carving workshops, eleven year old Natasha playing with new friends and joining in the many craft workshops - even using an oxy-acetaline torch for the first time, to make her tin windmill, and having her first go on a trapeze in the big-top. The sun shone, the loos were clean, we kept good company with new friends and old, and the view was stunning

I hope they will have us back next year.

Croissant Neuf Summer Party 2009 from Croissant Neuf on Vimeo.