Sunday, 28 July 2013

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Competitions and Aldeburgh Poetry Festival

This week I have mostly been writing and sending submissions to poetry competitions and magazines.

As well as sending out a couple of speculative submissions to Poetry London and Myslexia, and entering the Rialto and RSPB Nature Poetry Competition, I also sent a poem to Poetry and Paint, for possible inclusion in the third issue of their magazine. 

Poetry and Paint is a fantastic printed/electronic arts anthology, which seeks to celebrate the very best in visual arts and creative writing. Each month, creatives are encouraged to submit multimedia pieces inspired by a key theme. Writers and artists can also work together to submit collaborative pieces, and team work is very much preferred. But, if you're a painter without a poet - or vice versa - don't fret! The Poetry and Paint team also run a 'match making' service, pairing great writing with incredible visuals to create new and exciting work.

As I am not an artist (by any stretch of the imagination) I just submitted a piece of writing, and I'm really hoping it makes the grade. Fingers crossed that my poem gets picked!

This week I also finished my commission for the Chatteris Town Museum. The brief was to write a piece inspired by the nineteenth century Fen Cottage display at the museum and, after painting myself into a corner regarding a particularly tricky rhyme scheme, I finally managed to finish my poem. The imaginatively entitled Fen Cottage was sent to the curator of the Chatteris Museum yesterday. If she likes it, there's every chance that the poem could become part of the permanent display!

Earlier in the week, I spent a bit of time writing and redrafting some performance poems. August is a quiet month for me (I'm not able to get to Edinburgh this year) so I'm going to spend the time putting together some new material ahead of the Hammer and Tongue Regional Final in September. I really want to have some new stuff ready for this slam, and I'm also going to try to learn the poems off by heart - so I've set myself a pretty major task! Wish me luck!

But the best thing that happened this week was that I received confirmation of a ten minute performance slot at this year's Aldeburgh Poetry Festival!!!

The Aldeburgh Poetry Festival is organised by The Poetry Trust and is one of the longest-running and best-respected poetry festivals in the UK. Now in its twenty fifth year, the festival has hosted the likes of Pascale Petit, John Hegley, Roger McGough, Helen Mort, Ko Un, and many many more!

The very wonderful Amy Wragg, from Get on the Soapbox Events was kind enough to recommend me for the show, and I'm incredibly, ridiculously grateful! It's the most exciting thing!

I'll be performing alongside Suffolk-based poet Rowen James, and we even have our names in the programme! I'll also be volunteering at the festival, helping with organisation, stewarding, shepherding, and heavy lifting. It's going to be incredibly good fun, and I've definitely talk about it again sooner to the date. Exciting!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Calling all Creatives - Poetry Competition

Creative Competition Celebrates East Anglian Museums

As part of the projects with local museums, the Atelier East Young Curators' Forum are putting together a booklet of creative art and writing to celebrate museums! We've widened the scope of our competition, and we're now looking poetry, prose, visual art inspired by museums throughout the East of England. 

I'll be helping to put the booklet together, as well as judging the entries, and I'm really looking forward to receiving submissions from all you creative people out there!

We need your short stories, poems and drawings inspired by your local museum. 

The competition is free to enter, and it's a great opportunity to see your work in print. Plus, there are so many amazing objects to spark your imagination! 

You could write a poem about the mummified rat in the Whittlesey museum, tell the story about the 'Spong Man' at the Norwich Castle Museum, or paint a picture of old-fashioned computers on display at the Framlingham Museum in Suffolk!

All the winning entries will be published in a special limited edition booklet, and the competition is open to artists and writers of all ages. So, whether you're a budding Piccaso, or an amateur JK Rowling, we'd love to hear from you!

This project has been made possible with the support of Cambridgeshire-based arts organisation Atelier East and funding from the charity, Young Lives.

If you'd like to enter, please send your submission to with your name, contact telephone number, and the name of the museum and artefact that inspired you. 

Alternatively, you can pick up an entry form from the Wisbech and Fenland Museum, Museum Square, Wisbech PE13 1ES.

The closing date for submissions is Saturday 31st August 2013.

Good luck!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - John Hegley & Latitude Festival

So, what's been going down this week?

Well, on Wednesday, poet and writer Tim Clare did me the honour of critiquing the first page of one of my short stories. You can see his editing suggestions his website here.

Tim's cuts were pretty brutal (I'm really glad I wrote under a pseudonym a la JK Rowling!) but they were also fair and constructive. It's pretty clear that the whole story needs a lot of work, so I'm really grateful to Tim for his advice.

I always find it incredibly tricky to edit my own work. I think it's because I'm so close to the material and so attached to the content, I find it hard to see the story from an outsider's perspective. In these situations, it's always useful to get someone else to proof read my stuff, even if only to confirm that it needs some heavy editing. 

Rewriting then, and plenty of it!

On Thursday night, I had the very great pleasure of performing with Mr John Hegley, as part of the Arts Alive in Libraries initiative, organised by the lovely people at ADeC.

The show was really well attended, and John was on top form, with lots of great poetry, fantastic songs and even an acrostic competition for members of the audience!

John's such a brilliant performer, and he has this great presence when he's on stage that really puts an audience at ease. It's definitely something I'd like to develop in my own performances in the future. He also did loads of audience participation, and I know that's something I'd really like to do with my own poems, so I was busy making lots of mental notes while John was on stage!

My set went down pretty well; the audience laughed in all the right places, and I sold my last three poetry pamphlets and gave out my blog address to a few people too. But the best part was being able to chat with John after the gig, and get some advice from a real poetry pro.

I was pretty starstruck, so I probably didn't make that much sense! 

It was also really nice to meet with the ADeC crew, and I really hope I can work with them again in the future. They do a pretty awesome job organising and supporting arts in Cambridgeshire (and beyond) and I'm hoping they'll support me with a few projects. Watch this space!

On Saturday, I took a few friends down to Latitude in Suffolk. It's one of my favourite festivals, because there's just so much going on: as well as popular music, there's also a theatre stage, a comedy tent, a lecture theatre, and the biggest poetry arena on the UK festival circuit!

This year, my personal highlights included: Rob Auton and Nic Aubury in the poetry arena; Matts Rees, Shappi Korsandi, and Dylan Moran in the comedy tent; Jessie Ware, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Hot Chip in the Obelisk arena.
Two of the chaps from the 28 Sonnets Later Collective - Andy Bennett and Russell J Turner - played the poetry arena on the Friday, and I was really gutted to have missed their performances. I also secretly wished I'd applied for a slot this year, so I've promised myself that I'll give it a try in 2014. I don't know if I'll make it through, but you never know if you never try! 

* * *

Next Sunday (28th July) I'll be taking part in the Allographic fundraiser in support of the Edinburgh Free Fringe Festival!

From 12 noon until 5pm, they'll be a poetry book fair on the first floor of the Fountain Inn on Regent Street in Cambridge, where you can come and browse through a selection of poetry magazines, collections and anthologies. There will also be pamphlets and CDs on sale from various local poets and spoken word artists, all at very reasonable prices. Then, at 7pm, the Fountain Inn will play host to a poetry open mic, featuring fantastic performances from poets from across the East of England.

I'll be doing a small set and trying out some new material, and it would be great to see you there if you're free. All proceeds will go towards funding for the Spoken Word programme at this year's Edinburgh Free Fringe Festival.

Friday, 19 July 2013

It's not like in the movies

This is a work in progress. Let me know what you think in the comments below...

It's not like in the movies

I've got to tell you straight, my dear,
It's not like in the movies.
There's no such thing as L-shaped sheets
To cover women's boobies.

Girls and guys don't hide their bits
When chilling out, post coitus.
Woman don't wear bras in bed
(The under wire annoys us.)

You can have sex past twenty three –
I know that may sound shocking!
And apple pies are for your tea
And not to put your cock in.

A soundtrack is a fine idea,
But silence can be saner.
There's nothing worse that making love
To tune of the Macarena.

The deed can be spontaneous
(Don't wear unusual pants!)
But if you both lead busy lives
You can book in advance.

There's no such thing as romance, love,
Sometimes the earth don't shake.
And sex can be a fun pastime
For the Corrie advert break.

Just don't expect to look your best:
You'll sweat and wheeze and stink.
And please remember this, my dear,
Your drive is dulled by drink.

Your hair won't stay in place, my love,
With all those thrusts and grabs.
And you won't chose positions
Based on showing off your abs.

Candles are a fire risk;
Rose petals give you rashes.
And genitals are meant to have
Small, neatly trimmed moustaches.

Cellulite and stretch marks, dear,
On screen are still anathema.
But you don't need to worry
(Though you'll never win a BAFTA.)

Spotty backs and hairy toes
Are not film-makers' fare
But we're not having sex with them
So I don't think we should care.

In real life sex is messy, loud;
You'll never come in tandem,
And as for who you'll fall for, dear,
The pattern's fairly random.

It's not about aesthetics, love,
It's all about the feeling.
A rush of passion so intense
You'll need scraping off the ceiling.

While not a beautiful affair,
It's fun, fantastic, free!
Go on, indulge! You'll have a ball –
But I don't need to see.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Chatteris Museum and the John Hegley Gig

Another week of glorious summer sunshine! That's two in a row, which is practically unheard of in this country!

We took advantage of the beautiful weather this week with plenty of beer garden visits, evening walks, and impromptu picnics. I'm also the proud owner of not one but two unidentified insect bites. My blood is clearly very tasty indeed!

On Thursday, my Muscovy Duck sonnet was featured on the letters page of the local paper.

The Ely Weekly News were kind enough to publish the poem, alongside a small potted biography and a picture of my smug little face.

The poem itself is a sonnet based on the local Muscovy suck population in Ely, and was written as part of my local poetry project with the Fenland Poet Laureate Award.

I pass the Muscovy ducks on the riverside almost every weekend and I'm always struck by their loud, attention-seeking behaviour. Then, while watching coverage of Glastonbury Festival a few weeks' ago, it dawned on me: the Muscovy Ducks are little anatidae rock stars!

I mean, c'mon! Look at that fifties quiff!
This week I also received my second group speaking invitation. This time, I've been asked to visit the patients at the Macmillan centre in Wisbech for a chat about poetry and the Fenland Poet Laureate Award. I'm really looking forward to it - watch this space for more details! 

Yesterday, I visited the Chatteris Museum to work on my poetry commission for their Fenland Cottage display. The museum is lovely; small but well-curated, with lots of information and artifacts, as well as some thoughtful and engaging presentations. If you're ever in Chatteris, it's definitely worth an hour of your time.

I've been working on the Fen Cottage poem for a few days now, but I think I've painted myself into a corner. I started off with a pretty complicated rhyme scheme, which worked well in the first stanza, but brought the poem to a crashing halt half way through verse three. I don't know if it's salvageable, or if I'll just need to jack it in and start again. Ho hum. 

This week I also gave the blog a bit of a make-over. I thought it was time for a change, but as you can probably tell, I'm no designer! The new banner was made using a free internet-based cropping tool and Microsoft paint! It's like I'm still living in 1998!

Anyway, next week I'm really excited to be doing a supporting set for one of my poetry heroes!

As part of the Arts Alive in Libraries initiative, John Hegley will be performing at the Chatteris Library on Thursday 18th July. The show has been organised by local arts organisation ADeC, and is a fantastic chance to see John play a full set in a really intimate venue. Tickets cost £6 and are available here.

John is one of my favourite comedy poets, so it's amazing to be able to share a stage with him!

If you're unfamiliar with his work (shame on you!) I can tell you that he regularly performs sell-out shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, has published ten books of poetry and prose, and is a regular at comedy and poetry festivals around the world. He's one of the UK's best comic poets, and he's an expert on the ukulele too!

If you're free on Thursday night, come along to the show, I promise you'll have a fantastic evening!

The doors open at 7pm. See you there!

Monday, 8 July 2013

Desperate Times

Have you ever put up with shoddy rented accommodation just because it was easier than moving house again? If so, you might feel sympathy for the narrator of this poem. Then again, you might not. 

Desperate Times

I don't mean to sound so ungrateful
But I must put my cards on the table:
My grievances listed,
My words can't be twisted,
I'll state my case, far as I'm able.

There's nothing that's wrong with the room;
The furnishings all look well-groomed.
The kitchen is clean,
The bathroom's pristine,
But I can't shake this feeling of doom.

I don't mean to hurt any feelings
But I can see the stars through the ceiling.
This hole in the roof
Is a burden in truth.
I'm afraid it's just not that appealing.

I know you're a lonely old fella
But your listening skills could be better.
It's not 'home ventilation'
It's major vexation
And I can't sleep beneath this umbrella.

I can see you there watching me sleeping
Don't you think it's a little bit creepy?
I need a reprieve!
I've begun to believe
The conclusions to which we're all leaping.

Plus I found severed ears on the floor!
And faint screaming behind each closed door!
I'm breaking my contract
And cutting all contact.
It's just like a scene out of 'Saw'.

The legal fees may be immense
But I'm not one to sit on the fence:
I've got to move out,
No question or doubt,
The atmosphere here's too intense.

But this flat's in cushy location,
Near the shops, plus it's close to the station.
It's no business of mine
How you spend your spare time
And we all need our own recreation.

It might be the postman deserved it.
(He did give a pretty poor service.)
You may be deluded,
But all bills are included!
Moving house again makes me feel nervous.

If I blank out the lamps made of skin
It's not a bad place to live in.
Don't ask and don't tell
And ignore the corpse smell.
Sign the lease and we're happy: win/win.

Now, I don't want to get in your way,
Or indulge these sick games that you play,
But if you would consent
To waive this month's rent,
Then begrudgingly, I think I'll stay.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Writing and Editing

It's been another busy week on the poetry front!

The press release I wrote for the Elm Friendship Club visit was published in the local newspaper, and it's already led to a second booking! On the strength of the small (but perfectly formed) article, the Gorefield Ladies Group have asked me to give a talk at one of their speaker events in January 2014.

At this rate, I'll be lecturing at international conferences in no time!

My Rose Fair poem, Carnival Cargo, also appeared in the Fenland Citizen this week, to celebrate fifty years of the festival in the Fenland capital. I'm really gutted that I wasn't able to go along to watch the parade this year, but I'm so grateful to the Rose Fair committee for allowing me to be part of the celebrations!

The Mayor of Wisbech, Samantha Hoy, on her Rose Fair Float
In other news, the Word Circus event in Ipswich was cancelled, so I wasn't able to perform with the likes of Hannah Jane Walker, Lewis Buxton, Theo Best and Rowan James. But I'm a pragmatic old soul, and I used the time to continue my editing work for my friend and fellow writer John Clay.

At the moment, I'm helping to edit John's Spiderfingers series. Heavily influenced by graphic novels and comic book narrative, the story follows Stephanie Tent, her brief meeting with the self-styled god of chaos, and all that comes after. It's set in modern day London, and if you like your writing weird, with plenty of supernatural bite, then Spiderfingers is definitely worth a read!

Domestic Cherry 3
This week I also received my copy of Domestic Cherry 3, a fantastic book of poetry and artwork, released in association with the Swindon Festival of Literature. I have two poems in the collection, The Loneliest Gimp and Shaving Grace, and I'm really pleased to have been published alongside such an accomplished group of writers and artists.

If you'd like a copy of the anthology, you can buy it here.

This week I'll mostly be writing. I'm hoping to start work on a poetry commission for the Chatteris Museum, and I'll also be drafting my poem for The Rialto poetry competition. Fingers crossed!

I might also be making more of these peanut butter and chocolate squares. We made some on Friday for a charity do, and they're pretty delicious. (Even if I do say so myself!)

Soooo good!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Muscovy Duck

Ely in Cambridgeshire is one of only two places in the UK with a feral population of Muscovy Ducks. 

Originally from Central and South American, and with a name that suggests a Russian connection, these ducks are pretty alien to the UK. They're an odd looking bunch too, with black and white feathers, bright red faces and wattles, and enormous floppy flat feet. 

In Ely, they're a huge source of controversy. Quite apart from the fact that they're an invasive species, the ducks are smelly, noisy and they shit everywhere. Opinion is divided: some locals say that the Muscovy Ducks are an unhygienic eyesore, while others maintain that they're charming local characters. 

I'm broadly in favour of the Muscovy Ducks; they're like little local celebrities. Plus, they're good inspiration for sonnets: 

The Muscovy Duck
With Elvis-like quiff and a flat-footed gait,
He's victim to fashions ten years out of date.
Face red and embarrassed, he sits down to wait
For waterproof feathers to come back in style.
He sticks out a mile, just like a sore thumb.
An unwanted squatter, his parties are shunned.
To be a pariah is not that much fun;
The strangest of strangers on this marshland isle.
A born entertainer, he's messy and loud;
He'd be right at home on a festival stage.
His rock-star behaviour will draw in the crowds,
A waddling busker, with breadcrumbs his wage.
A local celeb, his neighbours are stuck
With this charming annoyance: the Muscovy Duck.