Tag Archives: Tania Hershman

Mad and Glow – the experiment

8 Oct
Mad and Glow

Mad and glowing (photo by Nine Arches Press)


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

Friday evening and going strong

6 Oct

And today, how the day has stretched out. From the Holiday Inn breakfast and the specially made poached eggs, I made my way to Tania Hershman‘s working on ‘Liberation through Constraint’ and found a bunch of hardy writers ready to take on the four incredible challenges she set us, smiling, as if she were offering us bars of chocolate. Which of course meant that we were all up for it, and launched ourselves in with some incredible results, judging from the pieces people read out. The culmination of the workshop was the introduction of the ‘Drabble’ – nothing to do with the very wordy novelist – a flash fiction form that has to be exactly 100 words. Discoveries and surprises all round, I’d say.

The open mic after lunch yielded more surprises, with its theme of ‘strange days’. The star of the show was probably the large German shepherd whose name I think was Rory; he actually stepped up to the mic on cue when his owner name-checked him in a poem. Apart from that particular surprise, there were powerful and impassioned poems on all kinds of subjects ranging from mental health to an opera singer in a washing machine to  the sculpture of Barbara Hepworth. The man with drums and a very long political message was strangely fascinating, and a couple of poets read the poems they’d written that very morning whilst in Daljit’s workshop.

I spent a good part of the afternoon in the tent with Tania Hershman rehearsing our two-woman show, ‘Mad and Glow’ which we’re premiering tomorrow afternoon. We tripped over a few microphone wires, Tania corrected me on a line of hers that I had inadvertently rewritten in my live rendition, and I got marmite on my script – but we eventually staggered through it and are excited to take it to an audience and see what they make of our particular madness. As Monty Python would say, it’s all in the best possible taste.

After the briefest of sojourns in my room I returned to the tent to hear Emma Simon, Sue Rose and Simon Williams – three contrasting poets in a beautifully curated reading. Emma’s actually in the seminar group I teach, so I couldn’t help feeling proud. I’ve known Sue Rose for a few years and it was great to hear her read a breadth of work over a full twenty minutes. Simon Williams is new to me, and closed the reading with some serious and some really really funny poems that the audience adored.

I can’t close this without mentioning the ‘festival bread’ – proper sourdough that’s properly excellent, and the delicious meals. I’m starting to feel slightly institutionalised as I turn up like a cow fresh from the pasture ready to be fed at the appointed times.


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

Dribble or drabble? Flashing at Poetry Swindon Festival

2 Oct

Dribbles and drabbles, flash*. Spot the difference between concise prose and sticking ‘poem’ on the end.

Yesterday (Thursday), Poetry Swindon Festival’s potentially hot debate – is prose poetry a thing? – was apparently thwarted by a squishy warm sofa with Jo ‘no’ Bell dividing and ruling, sat between Tania ‘yes’ Hershman and Luke ‘for sure’ Kennard. Next time: hard chairs. Continue reading