February, I’m so over you

February’s the low point of the year, for me: a wilderness of sorts between  resolutions/new beginnings and the official start of spring. It’s the colour grey.  It’s moody blue.  And, if social media’s a barometer, I’m not the only one who feels that way.  But it’s over!  Light levels are noticeably better, my garden’s budding and cat junior is swapping the close vicinity of various radiators for outdoor high jinks.

February’s bright side:

Me at Fire & Dust

 

 

 

Fire & Dust and Nine Arches Press open mic: my first feature reading of 2015, alongside Matt Merritt at The Big Comfy Bookshop in Coventry.

 

Matt Merritt at Fire & DustMatt’s reading included several poems from The Elephant Tests (NAP) including one of my favourites from the collection, The Elephant in the Room.

Nine Arches editor Jane Commane read too – a rare treat, as the poetry-packed Leicester Shindig! events seldom allow time for her to showcase her poems.

Penelope Shuttle’s long-awaited headlining at Word! in Leicester on 3rd Feb.  Wow!  I only wish I’d been able to attend her pre-event workshop.  Kathleen Bell’s feature reading finished the first half of the evening with some of her poem sequences.

The List Cause: a Poetry School open online workshop.  I wrote a poem.  (There’s a plait in a paper bag in a box in our loft.  It’s been trying to get into a poem for a while…).  It’s been redrafted and workshopped again, since.  It’s recuperating in a subfolder.  It may become two or more poems.

Carol Ann Duffy’s reading as part of De Montfort University’s Cultural Exchanges festival.  Boy, can she play her audience!  I love how she allows the words breathing space, her measured delivery, her deadpan eyeballing of the audience.  The Laureate included several poems from The World’s Wife, my personal favourite amongst her collections.

Rosie Garland’s second headlining at Word!  When she appeared in 2012, she’d just won the Mslexia Novel Competition.  Since then she’s published two novels: The Palace of Curiosities, and Vixen, now out in paperback.  I loved both.  Good, then, to hear excerpts from each as well as several poems.  A consummate performer.

Towards a better balance in life: half term, and a two-night sleepover by all four grandchildren for starters; pottering in the garden, secateurs in hand; a day trip to London (Grayson Perry’s Who Are You? exhibition at the NPG, Portobello Road Market, browsing the magazine shelves at The Poetry Library).

Softening the blow of the latest rejection email (high hopes), is this afternoon’s news that issue 11 of The Lampeter Review is now available to read/download online, with my contributor’s hard copy to follow.  You can read it on ISSU/download it for free, here.

Good stuff to come:

Our daughter’s arrival on Sunday for a week’s stay.

States of Independence on 14th March: DMU’s annual hosting of this independent publishing fair.  A diary highlight.  A stint at the Soundswrite Press table and reading poems from Beyond the Tune as SWP marks its 10th anniversary.

Soundswrite Press goes to Inzine Fest III @The Pod, Coventry on Saturday 21st.

A feature reading, alongside Bare Fiction magazine editor Robert Harper, at Poetry Bites in Birmingham on Tues 24th.  Details here.

The Easter hols: Writing East Midlands Writers’ Conference in Nottingham; a five-day poetry residential in Cumbia; Adam Horovitz at Word! (and this time I can make the afternoon workshop).

Life’s good!  What are you looking forward to, this month?

 

 

 

Last call! Writing 201: Poetry

Originally posted on The Daily Post:

Perhaps you already love writing poetry; perhaps you’re a poet and don’t even know it. Either way, Writing 201: Poetry begins on Monday, February 16, and we’d love to see you there!

Tell me more about this poetry thing…

Even though haiku
are all some of us can write*,
poems touch us all.

Writing 201: Poetry is a two week-course. Each weekday, you’ll receive an assignment with three parts: a prompt, a poetic form, and a poetic device. You choose which you want to explore (if any). An assignment might invite you to write a poem inspired by “forgiveness.” Then, you’ll have the option to write using a particular form that we’ll introduce and explain (say, couplets). Finally, we’ll throw in an optional poetic device for you to use (for example, a synecdoche). Try all three, or any combination of them.

For a fuller description of the course, head to Ben’s original…

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Massive Online Open Courses

Last week I blogged about some of the open workshops I’ve participated in at The Poetry School.  Indeed, there’s a wealth of free resources and courses available on t’internet.  Last year, I enrolled on the University of Iowa’s massive online open course (MOOC), How Writers Write Poetry.  (I’m genuinely curious about other poets’ writing processes and keen to try new ways into a poem).  It coincided with my return to work from sick leave, however, so I didn’t complete the course.  Having enjoyed the first two video tutorials and assignments, though, I’ve just re-enrolled.  Here are the details, cut and pasted from their latest email to my inbox:

Greetings from the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program!

We are delighted to invite you to join our new MOOC, How Writers Write Poetry 2015! This seven-week online course, beginning on March 23, 2015, offers an interactive progression through the principles and practice of writing poetry. The course is open to everyone in the world, free of charge, and will be taught in English. We hope you will join us!

Course video ~
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOHgH2Y2lbE&feature=youtu.be

Registration ~
https://www.canvas.net/browse/canvasnet/uofiowa/courses/how-writers-write-poetry

Our instructors are Christopher Merrill, poet, University of Iowa Professor of English, and International Writing Program Director; and Camille Rankine, poet, Assistant Director of the MFA Program at Manhattanville College, and Editorial Director of The Manhattanville Review. No previous writing experience is necessary, only a stable internet connection. If you would like to take this course but do not have stable internet access, please contact us at distancelearning.iwp@gmail.com. Class will start on Monday, March 23, 2015.

And, who knows, in another (retirement) life, I may yet complete the University of Pennsylvania’s MOOC course: Modern & Contemporary American Poetry (AKA ModPo).  If you’re interested, this one starts on September 12th, but you can sign up now.

Whatever your interest or specialism, Coursera lists a host of MOOCs.  Go look!

Giving a reading

jaynestanton:

Roy Marshall’s comprehensive guide to giving a poetry reading:

Originally posted on Roy Marshall :

rEADING

This piece is for poets who are going to be reading a set of 10, 15 or 20 minutes, or perhaps longer – the sort of length you might read as a guest poet or at the launch of your pamphlet or book.

I’ve been lucky enough to have given a few of these readings  (although they have been rather sparse lately so if anyone reading this would like me to read, please do get in touch! ) and I’d like to share some of my thoughts.

Of course you will bring your own approach and style to your reading depending on the type of work you write and the type of person you are. Here are some general points and ideas which might be worth considering. I’ve titled this piece ‘Giving a reading’ because you might like to view your reading as a gift to your listeners. Whether they have paid to see you or…

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The Poetry School

As I’ve said before, I thrive on poetry workshops as a kickstart to new writing (to say nothing of the excellent published poetry I’ve read in the process).  Then how come I’ve only recently begun to avail myself of all that’s on offer from The Poetry School?  There are face-to-face, downloadable and online courses to choose from. And there’s CAMPUS, the Poetry School’s social network , currently boasting 1,744 members engaged in poetry conversations through groups ranging from ‘What are you Reading?’ to ‘Web Curios'; from ‘News, Events and Happenings’ to ‘Competitions, Submissions and Challenges.’

There are no travel or accommodation costs to factor in, and ‘a night in’ doesn’t get much better than the free open workshops I’ve participated in to date.  Bookings are on a first-come-first-served basis, so signing up to CAMPUS and their email updates is a help there.  Assignments are posted to participants who then have 5-7 days to draft their poems before uploading them to the group a few days before the two-hour online workshop, facilitated by a group chat facility.  A transcript of the online chat session is made available a couple of days later so you can ponder over critiquing comments.  Writing in response to an assignment with a near deadline often works well for me: there’s little time for procrastination.

My first such was Kim Moore’s Put a Poet in Your Pocket, last May. It was refreshing (if a challenge in itself) to ‘live with’ my chosen published poem for a few days with ‘strict’ instructions to write down nothing in the way of ideas/notes before drafting my own poem in response.  Seven months later, I’m mightily pleased that the resulting poem has found a good home.

I rarely experiment with set forms, so Mosaics from the Broken Mirror – Writing and Revising the Ghazal was a real departure from the norm.  Jason Schneiderman’s excellent essays and the exemplar poems in the assignment made worthwhile reading.  And, who knows, I might someday produce a pleasing poem from the draft that currently hibernates in my WIP sub folder.

Tonight, I’ve another ‘night in’ planned, as participants of The List Cause open workshop will be entering the group chat room at 7PM for a two-hour workshopping session of each other’s list poems with tutor Beverley Nadin.  Bring it on, I say!

Oh, and that’s not all – I’ve signed up for Harry Giles’ open workshop: Beyond English – Poems in Constructed Languages.  So this weekend I’ll be googling Nadsat, Riddleyspeak, Klingon, Zaum and Lapine…

The month of firsts: January doings

What happened to January?  One minute I’m wondering how I’ll ever get back up to speed for the start of the spring term at school – next thing I know, I’m receiving e-newsletters full of the joys of February poetry events!

I haven’t set myself a daily writing goal but this month I have managed to redraft some poems-in-progress, resurrect one or two others and generate some new writing ranging from a few lines in my notebook to a fledgling poem in response to an online workshop assignment.

My first poetry foray of the year was for a brief chat with DJ Tony Wadsworth on Radio Leicester’s Saturday morning programme.  By all accounts, I didn’t come across as a blithering idiot, I managed to turn questions around to mentioning some of what I’d planned in my head/on post-it notes.  And I read the opening poem from my pamphlet.

My first featured reading of the year was as supporting ‘act’ for talented performance poet (and Leicester’s own) Jess Green, at Word! on 6th January.  I cut my teeth at the open mic there, five years ago or thereabouts, so it was a real pleasure to take the floor for a 10-minute spot in front of an audience of friends and many familiar faces.  It’s no coincidence that this monthly spoken word event (the longest-running in the Midlands) gets an honourable mention from several Leicestershire poets on Robin Houghton’s first Regional Poetry Focus blog post.  I relaxed and enjoyed the open mic slots in the second half, followed by Jess’s accomplished performance of Burning Books, Restart and Dear Mr Gove.  I sold a few copies of my pamphlet, too (not bad, considering most of those assembled already have a copy).

I attended the first Poetry Business’ January writing day, too.  I’ve a feeling that my trips to Sheffield will be more of a regular thing, this year.  I thrive on workshops anyway, but I feel privileged to spend a day in the company of the talented wordsmiths that comprise the PB regulars.  And it’s good to meet, face-to-face, poets whose blogs/poetry/social media quips and commentary I enjoy.  John Foggin (The Great Fogginzo) and Carole Bromley, for instance.

My first 2015 poem acceptance (yay!) came via email from The Lampeter Review.  It’s one I wrote as a result of participating in my first Poetry Society open online workshop: Kim Moore’s Put a Poet in your Pocket.  It will be published in issue 11 (not sure when), on the theme of Magical Realism.

Not a first, this, I’ve booked a place and my return rail ticket for a five-day poetry residential in Cumbria.  It’ll be my third (it’s the third one, too).  Co-run by Kim Moore and Jennifer Copley, this year’s theme is ‘The Stories we Tell Ourselves.’  I have to tell you it’s now fully booked, though.  I can’t wait for the Easter holidays!

Before I sign off, here’s what I’ll be poetry-doing first next month: a featured reading alongside Matt Merritt at The Big Comfy Bookshop in Coventry on Wed 4th Feb (only five days to go!).  It’s a joint Fire & Dust and Nine Arches Press event.  Open mic slots are available, too.  I’d love you to come and join us if you’re local, willing and able.  Or if you fancy a change from your usual haunts. Details here.

David Harsent – Fire Songs

jaynestanton:

Forthright as ever, Dave Coates on David Harsent’s T S Eliot prize-winning Fire Songs:

Originally posted on Dave Poems.:

Full Disclosure: The debacle that permitted one of Harsent’s work colleagues and a former student to be two-thirds of the judging panel for the country’s biggest poetry prize has been well covered. My feelings on transparency remain unchanged. Content warning: the book depicts often sexualised violence against women, which is discussed throughout this review.

Review:

Fire Songs kicks off with a poem about Anne Askew, a historical figure best known for being the only recorded woman to be tortured and burned at the stake at the Tower of London. She was also the first woman to ask for a divorce, left her arranged marriage to preach the gospel in London, where she was arrested twice and returned to her husband’s custody, and was finally interrogated and tortured and died at the age of 25. Harsent’s poem is interested only in her torture and execution. Curiously, the poem…

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