Narrate, Curate, Rejuvenate: Sole2Soul project

I’m delighted to be part of this exciting project as a commissioned poet.

Sole2Soul is an Arts Council-funded project commissioned by Leicester City Council to create digital assets for the Falkner Boot and Shoe exhibit at the recently refurbished Harborough Museum in a bid to increase museum visitor numbers and online traffic to the website.

This permanent exhibit is a reconstruction of the workroom at the rear of William Falkner & Son, makers and sellers of boots and shoes in Market Harborough from the 1830s.  The workshop has been painstakingly recreated, from the leather apron hanging on the door and the rows of lasts on the wall, down to the original floorboards.  Some of the wooden lasts for regular customers even show adaptations for the growth of bunions.  The museum is well worth a visit if you’re local or in the area.  (You might wish to check out the Iron Age Hallaton Hoard, also housed here).

Digital assets will take the form of story tweets, flash fiction and poetry which visitors will be able to access via a smartphone app.  Up to thirty writers have been commissioned by University of Leicester’s Centre for New Writing.

The project seeks to engage teenagers as ‘future curators’ who will create an web-gallery about the exhibit.  There will also be a creative writing workshop for over-55s with the opportunity of handling some of the artefacts (sadly, there’s an assumption that none of us work, though – it’s on a Monday afternoon).  If you’re interested, click here for a link to the flyer with all the details.

I felt a real connection with the exhibit; family history research shows that the Gills, Wrights and Connellys of my ancestors include at least three shoemakers (or cordwainers, as one distinguished himself) amongst other skilled craftsmen and women.  Here is my poem:

Presence

as if these wooden rows of lasts could slip
the wall of nails and find their dancing feet,
skip to the old tunes in their velvet slippers,
grip a Fernie hunter’s flanks in riding boots.

as if time stands still beyond the glass, as if
the burnishers and blacking, pegs and rasps
are overnighting and the apron’s hanging
on the door hook, waiting for the craft

of ghosts. As if I could walk in their shoes –
the journeymen cobblers, cordwainers,
cloth manufacturers, tailors and drapers,
framework knitters, wrights and butchers,
farmers, labourers, factory workers: grafters,
my ancestors, the names that made me.

© Jayne Stanton                   May 2014

Reasons to be Cheerful: part one

For starters, it’s not officially summer yet and the weather thinks it is!  The increasing light levels and lengthening days are energising, I find.  And our garden looks at its best in May.  I think I’m falling back in love with it now that I can manage a spot of gardening without reprisals from the hip department!

My 60% working week seems less tiring and more productive as three full days.  A day off today: making cups of tea for two men with younger bones who have laid weed control membrane and carted three tonnes of gravel to complete the transformation of my plantaholic’s paradise-turned-nightmare into something approaching low-maintenance.  And next week is half term!

It goes without saying that recent poetry events have been food for the soul, too:

A day workshop at Calke Abbey, run by Mark Goodwin, is already bearing fruit as poems begin to emerge out of notes and photographs taken.  This National Trust ‘unstately home’ is rich fodder – every room is preserved in a ‘frozen’ state of decay and clutter – apart from the opulent and immaculate state silk bed (a touch of Snow-White-in-glass coffin, I thought…).

A reading by Simon Armitage at Leicester Grammar School: I came across this barely-advertised event quite by chance.  What a treat of a Monday teatime!  The atmosphere was intimate.  By turns, Armitage wowed and amused his diminutive audience.  Immensely talented, down-to-earth AND funny gets my vote every time.  A brief Q & A session followed the reading; a window on his writing process.

Regular open mic nights across the Midlands, in close succession, featured poets including Maria Taylor (at Leicester’s Pinggg…K! poetry), Jean Atkin (at Lichfield’s Poetry Alight) and, at last night’s Leicester Shindig, four guest poets: Josh Ekroy, Rennie Parker, Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan.

Recent reads include Sarah Water’s The Night Watch (which, sadly, I didn’t find as compelling as Fingersmith and Tipping the Velvet), Carrie Etter’s Imagined Sons (loved the format of Catechisms at intervals between imagined encounters with a son given up for adoption at birth), Carole Bromley’s SmithDoorstop pamphlets Skylight and Unscheduled Halt (my personal favourite, lots to savour), and I’ve just started on Moniza Alvi’s At the Time of Partition (which I’ve wanted to read because I remember enjoying a section of this book-length poem in Magma, a couple of years ago).

Another acceptance: two poems in the summer issue of Under the Radar.  Which is great, as time is running out for my pamphlet poems that are, to date, unpublished in magazines.  My pamphlet manuscript, edits complete (for now), has been emailed for draft typesetting in early June.  And (at last) it has a working title: Between the Notes.

Looking forward:

I’m contemplating attending the Saboteur Awards in Oxford on 31st May.  There’s an afternoon Book Fair, too (further temptation).  I had a great time at last year’s event in Shoreditch – such a lively and upbeat evening.  And it would be lovely to meet up again with Agnes Marton, who I haven’t seen since then.  And maybe meet a few virtual friends face-to-face.  Anyone?

Next week, I’m running a morning poetry workshop for a local recovery community.  This will be my third visit.  They’re a lovely group and I really enjoy sharing  poems and facilitating writing exercises with them.

And the ceilidh band has a gig this weekend, even (flexes fiddle fingers…).

Heart Poems for Children’s Heart Week – Day Seven

Rebecca Goss

SUNDAY: ‘Think HEART’ CAMPAIGN

Think_HEART

The Children’s Heart Federation is launching a new national information campaign directed towards parents and medical professionals. The Think HEART campaign aims to empower and inform parents, as well as better educate medical professionals about the key early signs of a possible heart problem in children. Think HEART provides parents with five easy to spot signs to help identify if their child may have a heart problem and it gives them the confidence to raise the issue with their doctor or a health professional. Heart problems go undiagnosed in far too many children and Think HEART will increase early diagnosis and help to save children’s lives. To see what you can do to help, click here.

Squeezed Out
by Rosie Sandler

You’re primed for that final dive
towards the light; but my heart

is misbehaving – racing yours
in misplaced sympathy.

We move from home

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Poems for Children’s Heart Week – Day Six

Rebecca Goss

SATURDAY: FUNDRAISING

The Children’s Heart Federation (CHF) is a registered charity. There are lots of ways you can help this charity raise important funds by organising your own event or taking part in some of the CHF events. There’s The Big Heart Bike Ride, The Dragon Boat Challenge or the slightly less strenuous Bring a Bear Day – to work or school.  There are fundraising opportunities for all ages, things that you can get involved in independently or as a group. Find out more about fundraising for the CHF here: http://www.chfed.org.uk/events-and-fundraising/

Oh England Heal My Hackneyed Heart
by Luke Wright

Oh England heal my hackneyed heart
it’s shot with guilt and all those nights
I’ve shared it far too often, England;
bled it almost dry for eager eyes;
traded it for other hearts
that turned to gristle in my grasp.
Nothing stirs this heart these days
the party tricks have left…

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Heart Poems for Children’s Heart Week – Day Four

I’m re-blogging today’s Heart Poems in thanks for world pioneering heart research, a five-day-old’s life-saving open heart surgery at J G Stijdom in Johannesburg, South Africa, a four-year-old’s angioplasty at Leicester’s (former) Groby Road hospital and excellent ongoing cardiac care at Glenfield hospital,Leicester. Our ‘coarc baby’ celebrates his 29th birthday today

Rebecca Goss

THURSDAY:   PAEDIATRIC CARDIAC LIAISON NURSES      

Rebecca Goss writes: Within hours of my daughter Ella’s admission to Alder Hey Children’s Hopsital in 2007, we were introduced to Gill, our paediatric cardiac liaison nurse (PCLN). I had never heard of such a role within a hospital before, but soon realised how vital that role was. Gill was there to answer any questions we had about our daughter’s condition, explain hospital procedures and give practical advice.  The emotional support she provided to me, my husband and my extended family was invaluable too. 

I’m still in touch with Gill, years after Ella’s death and I asked her how she would describe the role of PCLN, (or Cardiac Nurse Specialist as they’re now more commonly known) in the world of cardiac care: ‘ We provide support, information and ensure you understand that information. We are a lynchpin between the family and the cardiologist. We are…

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Heart Poems for Children’s Heart Week – Day Three

Rebecca Goss

WEDNESDAY: THE PULSE OXIMETRY CAMPAIGN

Rebecca Goss writes: My daughter Ella was diagnosed with Severe Ebstein’s Anomaly 36 hours after birth. Until then, I thought my daughter was a healthy baby.  The shock of discovering she was ill, just  as I was about to take her home, added to the trauma of Ella’s first days and my early hours as a parent. A simple check could test every newborn for possible heart conditions. That is why I’m supporting the Pulse Oximetry Campaign: 

The Children’s Heart Federation (CHF) is campaigning for the introduction of Pulse Oximetry screening for all newborn babies in the UK. The test measures the oxygen levels in the blood and evidence shows it is an effective test in detecting three quarters of congenital heart conditions. The CHF is leading this campaign and pushing for its inclusion in the national screening programme of all newborns. To sign the…

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Heart Poems for Children’s Heart Week – Day Two

Rebecca Goss

TUESDAY:  HEART DISEASE
Congenital heart disease is a term which covers any heart abnormality present from birth. One in every 133 babies in the UK is born with a heart condition, over 5,000 babies per year.
Acquired heart defect is a term which covers a heart abnormality that develops after a baby is born. An estimated 500 -1000 children each year develop heart conditions after they are born.
Improvements in paediatric heart surgery and clinical care have led to more children with heart conditions surviving into adulthood. The number of adults with heart conditions is now increasing at an estimated rate of 5% per year. (Source:www.chfed.org.uk)

What Would You Say?
by John Harvey

What would you say of a man who can play
three instruments at once – saxophone,
manzello and stritch – but who can neither
tie his shoelace nor button his fly?

Who stumbles through basements,

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Heart Poems for Children’s Heart Week: Day One

You can follow Rebecca Goss’s wonderful poetry initiative, ‘Heart Poems for Children’s Heart Week’ via her blog. Read five heart-themed poems each day. Share to show your support for the work of the Children’s Heart Federation.

Rebecca Goss

MONDAY: THE CHILDREN’S HEART FEDERATION

The Children’s Heart Federation is the leading children’s heart charity and direct service provider as well as the umbrella body for voluntary organisations; working to meet the needs of children and young people with congenital and acquired heart conditions and their families.  Their vision is one of ‘a society in which all children with congenital heart disease have both their medical and social needs met so that they can live life to the full.’ You can find out more about them at www.chfed.org.uk  Twitter: @CHFed and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chfed

Strong Heart Songs
By Jo Bell

When their men rode off in warpaint
the women of the prairie tribes
stood tall to sing Strong Heart Songs.
They sang the strength into their men:
You must be saying all the time to yourself:
I must be brave. I must not fear anything.

Even when the fight came to…

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Catching up #3: Encounters and Collisions

My return to work after ten weeks of post-op sick leave was a shock to the system, phased though it was.  Thank goodness for a residential poetry course in Cumbria at the beginning of the Easter break – a kind of delayed convalescence holiday.  After attending Kim Moore and Jennifer Copley’s co-run three-day residential in February last year (see here) I wasn’t about to miss out on a return trip to Abbott Hall Hotel near Grange-over-Sands for five days, with nothing but a change of scenery , blue skies and sunshine to distract me from wall-to-wall poetry in good company.

The rail journey went without a hitch and four and a half hours flew by in the company of Bernice Reynolds, friend and fellow member of Soundswrite women’s poetry group.  We travelled up on the Sunday afternoon, giving us chance to settle in and have Monday morning free before the start of the course.  I put my spanking new ceramic hip joint to the test on a brisk walk along the coastal path into Grange.  Enjoying a coffee at my pavement table, full sun burning my denim-clad legs, I could have been on the Riviera instead of the north-west coast of England.

The course, entitled Encounters and Collisions, comprised a series of workshops using artefacts, poems, maps, pictures, photographs and prompts to spark ideas and set them on their way as early draft poems.  Kim and Jennifer worked us hard and we rose to the challenge, I think.  We wrote of landscape, animals and birds, the past, the body, ghosts, the dead.  We surprised ourselves and each other.

Wednesday afternoon was either free time or an opportunity for a tutorial with Kim or Jenny.  I came away with Jenny’s insightful feedback on several of my pamphlet poems.

Over four evenings, following a leisurely dinner, we shared our favourite poems by others, read our own work, enjoyed readings by our tutors and two mystery guest poets: Andrew Forster and Carole Coates.  The two were a good contrast in terms of subject matter and writing style, and made for an interesting evening with the chance to ask questions about their work.  I really enjoyed hearing Jennifer read poems from her new collection, Sisters (Smokestack Books) which I devoured in a cover-to-cover read after snapping it up from the Impress Books stand at States of Independence in March. As well as one or two poems from her pamphlet If We Could Speak Like Wolves (Smith Doorstop), Kim read a series of new poems which will form part of her forthcoming collection with Seren.  Like Jennifer’s work, they are darker poems with a story to tell.  I really admire poets who are not afraid to explore difficult subject matter.

It was lovely to make new friends and to catch up with those I met last year: Rachel Davies, Lydia Harris, David Borrott and Hilary Hares.  It was great to have the company of another Leics poet friend, Janet Lancaster, too.  We all spent Friday morning critiquing each other’s poems.  Thanks to everyone’s insightful feedback, I’ve now edited a problematic pamphlet poem.  Here we all are on our last afternoon:

2014 04 18_4048

Our journey back to Leicester went very smoothly, thanks to fellow poets Hilary Hares and Emily Blewitt who shared the first leg of the journey, and to the wonderful Network Rail staff who met Bernice and I off our train at Birmingham and Leicester stations to help us our luggage, etc.  People are so lovely.

Recharged batteries, a notebook full of would-be poems set to fledge from my scribble, new friends and happy memories.  A huge thank you to Kim Moore and Jennifer Copley and to my fellow participants.  What a week!

Of course, I’ve been so tardy with this post that others blogged its praises a couple of weeks ago.  You can read Emily Blewitt’s here, Gill Garrett’s here and Kim Moore’s Sunday Poem blog post featuring Hilary Hares’ wonderful course-inspired poem, Kents Bank. Kim’s site also has details here of her next poetry residential in St Ives, Cornwall this October.  Meanwhile, places on next year’s course in Cumbria are going fast…