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…).

States of Independence 2012

 States of Independence 2012 - Saturday 17 March

De Montfort University hosted this annual independent small press day event. Book stalls, readings, pamphlet launches, panel discussions, showcases: much to tempt the ear, eye and purse, to say nothing of catching up with friends and meeting new faces on the writing scene.

With several showcases running concurrently over four sessions throughout the day, I thankfully found less clashes of preference than last year.

11.00 AM: Longbarrow Press reading

Chris Jones kicked off with several poems from Miniatures, inspired by his experiences of new fatherhood in 2005/6, (or on ‘not remembering’, he remarked).  From The Footing, an anthology of poems about walking, The Doom concerns itself with the destruction of wall art in churches during the Reformation. I enjoyed the sibilance of ‘the swim of souls/like silver in the net.’

Mark Goodwin‘s landscape poetry maps the page with precision, innovative line breaks evident in his reading even without seeing them on the page.  St Juliot is a kilometre-by-kilometre itinerary of a walk with a loved one.  In contrast to Chris Jones, my ear focused on ‘inspire,’ ‘alive,’  ‘eye,’  ‘I.’

12.00 noon: I allowed myself a long lunch break in order to browse, make planned and spontaneous purchases and strike up conversations with new as well as familiar faces.

1.00 PM: Nine Arches Press poetry reading

Deborah Tyler-Bennett and Maria Taylor both read poems which draw from memory and family history.  Ms T-B, resplendant in retro, read from Mytton…Dyer…Sweet Billy Gibson, a triptych of noted/notable lives including her great grandfather.  Maria Taylor (equally lovely in designer tights) whetted our appetites for her forthcoming collection, Melanchrini (meaning dark-haired/dark-featured), interweaving her Greek childhood, growing up in London and life in other places.  She also read some new film-inspired poems and my personal favourite, Larkin.  (To read it, click here).

2.00 PM: Happenstance readings

Peter Daniels opened the session, reading poems from Mr Luczinski Makes a MoveTim Love gave an interesting and frank account of his journey to pamphlet publication and read from Moving Parts as well as a poem in homage to Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now.  Although a fellow Soundswrite member, this was my first experience of Sally Festing’s poetry outside of the Soundswrite anthologies.  I enjoyed her title poem, Salaams, about the different ways of saying good day in Arabic.  I loved the pared back language in Sundry Pelts and Fire, allowing the sounds to resonate.  Robin Vaughan-Williams ended with poems from The Manager.

3.00 PM: Short Fuse showcase: Intimate Confessions

Stories, letters, diary extracts, autobiography, shopping lists, confessional poetry, recipes on a theme.  Short fiction by writers (or their alter egos) across the genres, beginning with a piece in English and French by one Violet Beauregard from Paris, Texas: a self-confessed schizophrenic.  I enjoyed Julie Hoggarth’s Liberating: twenty slides and narratives, each lasting twenty seconds, spanning twenty years.  I heard: containment, confinement, enclosure, protection, in a journey towards liberation.  I read a piece of flash fiction entitled The Door, Left Open, my only venture outside the realm of poetry to date (although comments afterwards bore testimony to the probable truth that it never strayed far from the poet’s voice).

All in all, a day well-spent: inspirational, informative.

My Jenga tower of to-reads now includes the latest Iota magazine, Geraldine Monk’s Lobe Scarps & Finials (Leafe Press), Chris Jones’ Miniatures (Longbarrow Press), Phil Brown’s Il Avilit and Tony Williams’ All the Rooms of Uncle’s Head (both Nine Arches Press).  The Easter holidays can’t come too soon!

Thursday 26 Jan: Mark Goodwin at Leicester Writers’ Club

On Thursday, members of Leicester Writers’ Club gathered to welcome poet Mark Goodwin as their guest speaker for the evening.

As adjudicator of the club’s Autumn/Winter Poetry Competition, Mark gave insightful comments on the winning entries and presented prizes, followed by entrants’ readings of their placed poems.

Mark Goodwin, who describes his work as ‘other stream’ rather than mainstream in style, talked about his recent project as Leicestershire Landscape Poet in Residence. (I was lucky enough to participate in collaborative scapeshops at Loughborough University campus and The Brand, Swithland last summer).  He also talked about his fascination with the ‘rurban’ or ‘rimmage’: where urban meets rural.  (This was the focus of a walkshop I attended, facilitated by Mark as part of Southwell Library Poetry festival in July 2010).

We were transported as Mark read poems from his collections Else and Back of a Vast (Shearsman): poems about place, often using playful language and innovative word or line breaks, evident in the voicing of them.  In the ensuing discussion, one member likened this style to stop-frame animation.  The poet went on to say how breaking words gave opportunities for being creative with word meanings.  He also welcomed coincidental sounds occurring during the reading of certain poems.

Mark mentioned poets who have influenced his writing: Lee Harwood, Peter Dent and Geraldine Monk.  Click here to read poems by the latter two poets, and Mark’s tribute poems, in Litter online magazine (Leafe Press).

Mark ended by reading Song of Shoes from his latest collection, Shod (Nine Arches Press), which won the East Midlands Book Award 2010.  A modern parody about a shoe messiah, Shod is strongly narrative, lyrical, innovative.  I found it compelling reading – a real page-turner.