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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.

My Surprise Workshop

8 Oct

It is fair to say that some participants didn’t get what they came for on Sunday morning when they turned up with their rolled up mats and tired faces expecting relaxation and poetry. I was a late replacement for the relaxation teacher who wasn’t able to make it. There was a meditative quality to this workshop, but I don’t think you could say it was relaxing. This was a mixed group of experienced poets and some completely new to poetry. But every single one of them moved me with their willingness to dig in, dig deep and take on challenges. By this point in the festival I reckon most participants are steeped in poetry and they’re just ready to go. Continue reading

Mad and Glow – the experiment

8 Oct
Mad and Glow

Mad and glowing (photo by Nine Arches Press)

INSIDE

I met Tania Hershman, Poet in Residence at Swindon and my now partner-in-poetry, at the Nine Arches Christmas party last year. When we heard each other read, we were both struck by the ways our work resonated, although our styles are very different, and began to wonder whether, given that we both have a background in theatre, we might put together a two-woman show. As we were beginning to focus on this idea, we realised that we were going to be at Swindon at the same time. This seemed to be too good an opportunity to miss, so we tentatively asked Hilda Sheehan whether we could have ten minutes for little scratch performance. Hilda being Hilda, lover of experiments, gave us a one hour slot and left us to it. And so Mad and Glow was born. This is a two-woman show directed by my daughter Tamar, involving tea, sandwiches, audience participation and quite a lot of poetry. Continue reading

Politics and Provocation

8 Oct

Daljit Nagra’s was a packed workshop in the holiday Inn and we were grateful for the posh bottles of water, Holiday Inn notepads and pens, and thankfully, air conditioning. Things got quite ‘balmy’ as Daljit put it as this workshop progressed. I had intended to come as an observer but found myself quickly and irrevocably drawn in.

The political became more and more accessible as a way into poetry as the workshop progressed. Daljit talked about his experience of writing British Museum, that a way to get into the structures of politics, for him, was to look at the structures of buildings; beautifully concrete images to work from. He talked about the joy of taking on The Big Poem, of doing the research without an authoritative or didactic voice, and mentioned my favourite Yeats quote: ‘Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry’. From this, he invited us, amongst other things, to be non-partisan and to write from another’s point of view. Continue reading

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