Tuesday, 23 April 2013

NEWS - Young People's Museum Booklet Project

Next month, art and history will collide at the Wisbech and Fenland Museum!

To launch the call for submissions for their latest project, the Young Curators’ Forum is proud to present a free creative workshop hosted by me (in my role as Fenland Poet Laureate) and Lead Young Curator Brandon Mattless.

The project has been made possible with support from local arts organisation Atelier East and the Cambridgeshire based charity, Young Lives.

The workshop is suitable for adults and children over 11, and participants will be invited to use museum artifacts as a creative springboard, writing short stories, drawing pictures and composing poems based on their response to the objects and displays.

Myself and Brandon will lead a series of activities designed to help get the creativity flowing, and there’ll also be plenty of time to look around the museum for inspiration.

The workshop runs from 10:00am to 12:00pm on Saturday 11th May at the Wisbech and Fenland Museum, Museum Square, Wisbech.

Participation is free, but places are allocated on a first come, first serve basis, so please call the museum on 01945 583817, or email info@karen-harvey.co.uk to book your place.

The Young Curator’s Forum will also be putting together a booklet of creative work celebrating the Wisbech and Fenland Museum, and they’d like to hear from you.

Submissions can be in the form of poems, short stories or drawings, but all must be based on or inspired by the collections at the Wisbech and Fenland Museum. Adults and children of all ages are welcome to enter.

Please send your submission to info@karen-harvey.co.uk with your name, contact telephone number, and the name of the museum artifact that inspired you.

The closing date for submissions is Friday 31st May 2013.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

The Hypocriteapotamus

The Hypocriteapotamus
Always liked to cause a fuss
When lionesses sought to fight
For same sex mammal mating rights.

He called it an abomination,
Against the laws of all creation,
That three-toed sloths, Adam and Steve,
Commit such sins, as he believed.

But all the while, in his hollow
The 'potamus was wont to wallow
With young male friends, in prime of life,
Behind the back of his good wife.

The Hypocriteapotamus –
Much wiser than the rest of us –
Decried the zebras on the dole
“These lazy oiks need more control!”

“They lie to us and so commit
“such fraud to gain their benefits.
“While we endure austerity
“They get to live their lives rent free!”

The 'potamus here failed to mention
His Swiss account and tax-free pension,
The gifts sent to the Revenue
Do as I say, not as I do.

The Hypocriteapotamus
Viewed foreigners with veiled disgust
And said giraffes from foreign climes
Were all to blame for rising crime.

He feared and loathed all immigrants:
The Polish chimps and elephants,
Somali parrots, German puffins
“And yet the government do nothing!”

He railed against the Czech gazelles
“This country's going straight to hell!”
When no one understood his pain
He moved away, to sunny Spain.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Enid Porter

This month’s Fenland poem was originally written for the Walking with Women Tour. The project – organised by Cambridge-based poet Hollie McNish – sought to explore women’s role in the history of Cambridge through art and poetry, as well as through the architecture and history of the city. For more information on the tour, please do check out the Shape East website.

I chose to write about Enid Porter, the curator of the Cambridge and County Folk Museum from 1947 to1976. Enid was a leading authority on Fenland culture, history, customs, stories, and beliefs. She also had a vast knowledge of Cambridgeshire place-names, dialect, folklore, and traditions.

Being a big fan of social history, I feel a huge affinity with Enid Porter. I also find it really inspiring that she gathered so much of the information for her publications and museum exhibitions by speaking directly to local people and collecting their stories. 

She was one of the pioneers of Oral History but she preferred not to record her subjects, either on cassette or via pen and paper. She believed that people were more likely to open up to her if both sides were conducting a conversation, rather than an interview. So she memorised each discussion.

It’s a wonderful thought, and it sparked an idea for a poem.

This is also my first attempt at a poem with palindromic features. It's not a true palindrome, but lines from the first half of the poem are repeated in reverse order in the second half of the poem. Hopefully, the overall effect is a pleasing one.


I will memorise you.
Tell me your stories –
Fix them tightly in my mind.
Well-worn lives that shine behind your eyes,
That speak of past and future like
Those memories of histories unwritten.
I will listen.
Let nothing go unsaid.
Speak of bombs and barricades. The price of bread.
Talks of trains and talk of ships
Let every flooded fen flow from your lips and
speak to me. I need no pen to write this tale.
I will memorise you.
I need no pen to write this tale. Speak to me.
Let every flooded fen flow from you lips and
Talk of trains and talk of ships.
Speak of bombs and barricades. The price of bread.
Let nothing go unsaid.
I will listen.
Those memories of histories unwritten
That speak of past and future like
Well-worn lives that shine behind your eyes.
Fix them tightly in my mind.
Tell me your stories –
I will memorise you.

Friday, 5 April 2013

NEWS - The Cancelled Zine Fair & The Live Lit Scratch

It feels like it's been a long time since I posted some news on the blog. There's a good reason for this: I've been so incredibly busy! Most of my time this month has been spent plotting and scheming with Atelier East, the arts organisation that supported the Fenland Poet Laureate award. We've got some fantastic ideas for events and projects for the Fenland area, so keep your eyes peeled for further info - coming soon!

I've also been frantically drafting and re-drafting some stuff for a Live Literature Scratch Night later this month, at which I'm performing alongside fantastic Norwich-based poets Andy Bennett and Russell J Turner.

The Scratch will be a chance for the three of us to showcase the work we began as part of the Writers Centre Norwich Writers' Retreat, and we'll each be performing a twenty minute 'work in progress' version of our show ideas in front of invited friends and poetry bigwigs and honchos.

Andy's show is about the history of Norwich Castle - from the Norman Conquest up to the present day - told in rhyme. I saw a ten minute snippet of it at a show last month, and it is amazing! I'm really excited to see how the whole thing has progressed since then. Russell's show is about his battle with alcoholism, and his poem, 'Build me a Ship of Bottles' is one of my favourites of the year, so I'm really looking forward to seeing more of his work!

And my piece? Well, I'm going to be looking at Music. How it makes us feel, why we identify with different musical subcultures, and what our tribe says about us. I also wanted to talk about whether, in having every single song available at the click of a button, the 'shuffle generation' may just have lost something important and intangible.

I realise that makes it sound a little bit like a sociology thesis, but I promise there will be limericks! And poetry from my time as a teenage Goth! So there might just be a few laughs, in amongst all the soul searching and seriousness.

I'm actually really nervous about the performance, because I've had so little time to work on my stuff. I really want to make the most of this opportunity though, so I'm locking myself away this weekend in order to Get Some Shit Done.

Wish me luck!

In other news, I'm sorry to say that I won't be hitting the DIY Cultures Zine Fair and Exhibition in London's fashionable Shoreditch on Sunday 7th April. It's a shame, but the lady to whom I was limpeting isn't able to make the date after all. No worries though. I'll take my poems to the big city one of these days. One of these days, London, one of these days!

Finally, next week I'm hoping to get down to Pint of Poetry (and a Dash of Drama), the poetry open mic night in Peterborough, run by poet Mark Grist and Dramatist Summer Moeed. The fun starts at 8pm on Wednesday 10th April, in Charter's bar. See you there!

Writers' Circle Post - March 2013


The needle was in my hand; it felt as though it had always been there.

The curtains were closed when I woke, but the sunlight filtered through the sheer material, throwing out floral shadows which mirrored the gaudy print and littered the carpet like badly-drawn stars. The arm of the settee pressed painfully into my lower back, and I realised I had once again slipped into unconsciousness without any regard for my lumbago. Sleep came easily to me now; the dull ache of my advancing years were abetted by an addiction which had claimed my time like a jealous lover, and caused my family a great deal of unexpressed shame.

My compulsion began innocently enough: a recreational habit, recommended by a woman I met at church. She had used it to alleviate her haemorrhoids, and though I was by no means similarly afflicted, I sought to improve the cognitive functions that seemed to be slipping from my grasp with the passage of time. A poor excuse, perhaps. But despite my initial anxiety – and whether as a result of placebo or genuine benefit – I soon felt the fog of confusion lift and my mind seemed sharper than I had ever known it. For the first time since Frank's death, I was enjoying myself.

The sense of belonging which I derived from this pastime was cold comfort to my children, who roundly condemned my new hobby. They thought I was neglecting my previous enjoyments in favour of something they regarded as sinister and unwholesome. I must admit, I did forget to arrange the church flowers several times, and I was unable to attend the early morning shifts at the charity shop after heavy periods of indulgence; nights were spent in a haze and I would often wake on the floor in the kitchen, or in the bath tub with no memory of my having decided to take a dip in the first place. I lost all interest in the garden.

I was upset by their lack of empathy. They didn't understand the loneliness I faced, rattling around the flat without Frank. I was at my lowest ebb - I realise that now - but at the time, I was so quick to anger. I lashed out (an action quite out of character) and informed them that if they couldn't accept my lifestyle, then they should consider themselves unwelcome at the retirement apartments. Soon, they stopped coming.

Left to my own devices, I graduated from the occasional extravagance to an almost constant state of immoderation. I was gilded by a sense of entitlement that came from my lifetime of sacrifice. My argument for excess was the unfulfilled martyrdom of the frustrated housewife.

The pain in my back was unbearable now, and I stirred, my legs swinging wildly into the coffee table and disturbing the detritus of last night's binge. Smiling wryly to myself, I tidied away the evidence, and wiped the surface with a wet cloth. I pulled back the curtains and wrenched open a window, hoping to dispel the mist that lay thickly about the small room.

I decided I would shower, then pop into town on the bus, to meet a friend who had promised me a quantity of something beautiful with which to pass a pleasant evening.

I stooped to pick a stray thread of wool from the carpet when I noticed a pink object moving slowly just beyond my field of vision. Hallucinations were uncommon, but my brain was still reeling from the night before, and in the short time in which the addiction had taken its hold, I had learnt that all things were possible. I plucked an ornamental ashtray from the sideboard and swung around as agilely as one can with two plastic hips.

Mr Tinkles meowed plaintively, his tired eyes looking up at me as he sank into a melancholy crouch. He stayed hunched low to the ground for a moment, before he decided that I posed no threat to his physical well being. Meowing again in that same sad manner, he began kicking ferociously as the pale pink knitted jumper that cling to his furry body. I knew what I had to do.

'Hello? Is that Knitter's Anonymous? Yes, it's Aida Crenshaw again. Yes. Yes, a jumper for my cat this time. No, I'll come straight over. Thank you.'