Archive by Author

Levelling up to Shakespearean

11 Oct

 

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George Fell – a welder by day, guitarist by night (imagine Jamie Dornan, not Flash Dancer Jennifer Beals) – opened the Poetry Swindon Festival Finale with fantastic finger twiddling of self-penned pieces. Inspiration, George shared, came from such sources as trapped bees behind a window and the dawn chorus at Glastonbury Festival mocking his hangover.

Poet and children’s writer A.F. Harrold made his second appearance after the Children’s Open Mic that morning, with added swearing and Greggs the Baker ejection anecdotes. He worried about the ‘judgemental’ big standee of the disconsolate Festival mascot, Dog. After the heavyweight poetry of the last four days, the audience was up for A.F.’s humour, even withstanding the affectionate booing greeting the lack of Dog love. Continue reading

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The sky shalt never be gunmetal

9 Oct

At the post-lunch reading slot at Poetry Swindon yesterday, young local poet and singer Olivia Tuck stepped in for a poorly Camilla Nelson.

Now while I’m sure Camilla would have been great (because Poetry Swindon has impeccable taste), Olivia made the most of her surprise moment. Funny and revealing, Olivia tells the trials and tribulations of youth, with a backdrop of in and out-patient mental health services and dark fantasies like Changeling. Today, chronicler Milo age 11 – still hanging around after the Children’s Open Mic, chilling on a bean bag and catching the reading – can still recall much of Olivia’s poem about her 12-year-old self.

She was in great company with two 2017 highly commended Forward Prize poets, Rishi Dastidar and Jessica Mookherjee. Continue reading

On iced buns and rubbish trees

8 Oct

 

 

A few bleary adult faces were prepping the Children’s Open Mic Talent Show this morning after the 3am mini party finish in the Tent Palace of the Delicious Air last night. Alas it started waaay after I had retired to bed but at least I didn’t look green today.

We were chewing our nails a little. At first it looked like the only kids were going to be the host (chronicler Milo), the guest poet Sophie Daniels and their siblings. But it was alright on the night (morning) when the chairs and bean bags filled with children anxious to take a turn on the mic.

So we had poems, jokes, poem-jokes, a bit of Milo, a welcome lot of A.F. Harrold the honorary adult poet and even more of Dr Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham. A.F. tackled serious business like iced buns in an iced bun shop, the perils of a midnight feast, and rubbish trees. Nine year old Sophie’s set showed her a miniature poet-in-waiting with an edge of darkness. Milo had to bravely act his way through Michael Rosen’s Little Rabbit Foo Foo – with the assistance of Sophie’s sister Grace and audience participation – after his sister Sydney got a serious attack of stage fright and not even the extreme bribery of chocolate cake would entice her onstage.

A.F. Harrold was a consummate professional, even when toddlers tried to upstage him by taking the mic mid-poem, and Milo (and the other kids queuing to get their A.F. books signed) finished the event with a big fat smile on his face.

Written by Louisa Davison

Children’s Open Mic Talent Show took place at the Richard Jefferies Museum, 8 October 2017, as part of Poetry Swindon Festival.

Poets and Publishing #2

7 Oct
Poets and Publishers 2017

From left: Mary Jean Chan, Carrie Etter, Amy Wack

For the second year running, much-published poet and University Reader Carrie Etter quizzes two publishers from the world of poetry for tips on getting published.

This year, Carrie talked to Seren Books editor Amy Wack and Mary Jean Chan, co-editor of Oxford Poetry.

Amy is more of an unashamed traditionalist, a ‘sucker’ for form but ‘like it when people change my mind’. She is drawn to universal themes of nature, love (‘it worked for Shakespeare’) and bereavement. But she hasn’t had a transgender-themed submission and thinks it’s about time. There is a discussion about the importance of themes in collections – what if you have lots of good work, but no particular theme? It’s all about marketing, says Amy. Themed collections are easier to sell. Continue reading

Deathcap mushroom babies and other stories

7 Oct
Poetry Primers

From left: Ben Bransfield, Cynthia Miller, Jane Commane (Nine Arches Press), Marvin Thompson. Bottom right: Tony Hillier

Regarding the quality of Poetry Swindon’s hosts, as I’ve written before, if you want a note-free host who knows more about the poet’s work than their own mother, Sam is your man. He makes the kind of celebratory introduction that forces an advance apology from the poet. And not forgetting Poetry Swindon’s finger-clicking and foot-stomping founder and leader, Hilda. I remember when Hilda could barely stand in front of a crowd. These days she has comic timing that would cause a stand-up to ask if she ran performance workshops and encourages us to encourage the poets with the clapping, cheering and whooping usually reserved for slams.

Yesterday, Tony was the cheerleader for Poetry Swindon Festival’s Poetry Primers, who had not a droney ‘poetry voice’ between them. I wasn’t sure at first about Ben Bransfield’s slow pace but then realised this enabled the absorption of unfamiliar words, phrases and lines, when the norm is for whole poems to gust by on a gale of inattention. One memorable poem owned the line ‘as you do’ as Ben contemplated fatherhood of a deathcap mushroom baby (I’m guessing in the vein of ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’). Later he riffed on Scrooge and Jacob Marley as lovers which makes total sense if you think of it in the context of waking up drunk and imagining randy ghosts. Continue reading

Singh Songs and other poems beginning with S

6 Oct

You know that moment when you finally get what a poem means and then you realise – aghast – that every time previously you’ve heard the poet read it you’ve been smiling faintly or staring at the floor and then you realise IT’S A SAD POEM. This happened to me before when I submitted a poem celebrating my newly born daughter for critique to a writers group at the same time as another writer submitted a poem about her dead baby son and I still didn’t realise until critiquing it at the group when suddenly the penny dropped. Continue reading

Poetry and the film and the lecture

6 Oct

The second two Poetry Swindon Festival events were proper clever. Left me with a lot of thoughts which, to do the whole process justice, I’ll pose as questions.

The first asked us, is poetry film, poetry?

After a series of mesmerising shorts from the 1920s to last year – Swoon, Man Ray, Eduardo Yagüe, Hans Richter, Barbara Hammer, Tom Konyves, Dave Bonta – I wondered if poetry film is an intellectual exercise, or whether it speaks to us emotionally at a deeper level that bypasses intellect. Not that there’s anything wrong with ‘intellectual’ – unless it’s trying to shut others out with its cleverness. If you’ve met the lovely poetry film makers Elephants Footprint A.K.A. Chaucer Cameron and Helen Dewbery, you’d know inclusiveness was the only thing on the table.

Like contemporary dance, poetry film creates its own visual language of movement that feels beyond text. In appreciating poetry film, do we let go of brains instead of trying to hold onto them? Continue reading