Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Better Things 2 - another NYE poem

It's important to have realistic expectations when planning your New Year's resolutions. This poem is a continuation of last year's NYE offering, which you can find here. I hope you like it, and I hope you have a safe and merry New Year's Eve!

Better Things 2

This year
I will travel the globe
I will go to Europe
I will explore the British Isles
I will finally find out what's in our shed

This year
I will be kinder to everyone
I will help out in my neighbourhood
I will do one good deed a day
I will stop biting the postman

This year
I will volunteer for charity
I will give my time to others
I will try to be less self-involved
I will stop referring to myself in the third person

This year
Leanne will be more healthy
She will eat fresh vegetables
She will have at least one piece of fruit per day
She will see a doctor about the Scurvy

This year
I will learn to speak better French
I will learn to speak better English
I will stop using Klingon at parties
tlhIngan DanoHmeH cha' jImon

This year
I will make new friends
I will try to be more approachable
I will smile more
I will stop talking about FBI conspiracies at parties

This year
I will articulate my feelings
I will wear my heart on my sleeve
I won't hide behind stupid poems
I will tell you that I love you

Sunday, 29 December 2013

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - A Year in Review

Well, this is the last news post of 2013. It's been a ridiculously busy year for me, but thoroughly enjoyable too!

Whether I was working alongside incredible creative talent at the Norwich Writers' Centre Live Literature Residency, writing oodles of sonnets for the 28 Sonnets Later Project, or working on commissions with the Fenland Poet Laureate programme, it was such a pleasure to be collaborating with so many inspiring poets, writers and promoters.

This year I met some of my literary heroes, including the likes of Benjamin Zephaniah, Ian McMillan, and Neil Gaiman, and I performed alongside one of my all time favourite poets, Mr John Hegley.

I also got the chance to meet local poets and emerging writers from right across the Fens, through poetry workshops, talks and events. I performed at venues across the East of England, and even took an overnight jaunt up to Yorkshire, to tell some poems at Away with Words in the lovely city of Hull.

My work was published in fifteen journals - printed and online - and one of my poems even made it to Israel, as part of the Reading Rooms exhibition at the Alfred Gallery in Tel Aviv. One of my notebooks also found its way into the Literary Manuscripts: Wisbech Writers exhibition at the Wisbech and Fenland Museum, sitting in a glass cabinet alongside notes written by John Keats, Mary Shelley, William Wordswoth, Charles Dickens, Jonathan Swift, and Samuel Taylor Coldridge.

That was crazy!

In the summer, I performed at some fantastic festivals, including the Strawberry Fair in Cambridge, Folk East in Lowestoft, and the Hythe Festival in Colchester. I was lucky enough to be invited to be part of the group slam team at the Hammer and Tongue Grand Finals, and my poem Carnival Cargo appeared as part of the display at the Rose Fair in Wisbech.

I did a small set as part of the fantastic line-up at the Peterborough Arts Fest, and helped raise money for some fantastic causes through performances at Oxjam and Women's Work: A Showcase of Female Performers.

Then there was the Aldeburgh poetry festival (Ah-maz-zing!) and the launch of Glass Cases and Curios, our anthology of poetry and artwork inspired by museums in the East of England.


But for me, one of the most enjoyable things about 2013 was starting up Fen Speak. It's been really incredible to see just how many people are interested in a regular poetry open mic night in the Fens, and I really hope we can build on that interest in 2014, and maybe even expand!


So there you are. That was 2013. It only remains for me to wish you a peaceful, prosperous and poetical 2014. Catch you in the New Year!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas Round Ours

In my house, when it's Christmas,
It's certain you will see
Twelve bowls of cashews,
Eleven TV Specials,
Ten pigs in blankets,
Nine pairs of new socks,
Eight nibbled mince pies,
Seven unplayed board games,
Six tinselled hairdos,
Five Brie wheels!
Four broken bulbs,
Three squashed sprouts,
Two uncle Steves,
And my Dad snoring on the settee!

In my house, when it's Christmas,
It's certain you will see
Twelve twitter updates,
Eleven minute loo breaks,
Ten clashing programmes,
Nine types of pudding,
Eight brand new cat toys,
Seven thousand sequins,
Six listless crackers,
Five Brie wheels!
Four squiffy aunts,
Three wise men,
Two bags of trash,
And my Dad snoring on the settee!

In my house, when it's Christmas,
It's certain you will see
Twelve runny noses,
Eleven dirty dishes,
Ten family bear-hugs,
Nine ancient movies,
Eight mumbled carols,
Seven kinds of stuffing,
Six fondled presents,
Five Brie wheels!
Four Lego forts,
Three parsnips,
Two wonky trees,
And my Dad snoring on the settee!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Deadly Sin #4

Based on a true story (sort of)

Deadly Sin #4

So we're off to our local Chinese
For noodles and rice, if you please.
Come be a glutton,
Undo your top button
And give your insides a good squeeze!

There's nothing so tasty and sweet!
If you join us, you're in for a treat!
Veggie chop suey
And chow mein so gooey
All laced with mysterious meat.

But what's that, all squidgy and small,
Peaking round from the spicy prawn balls?
Please don't freak out,
But that's no bean sprout!
This is not good! It's not good at all!

Shaken, we order more drinks,
Coz it can't be as bad as we think.
But we all had an eyeful
Of this plate filled with eyeballs,
And I can't eat my food if it blinks.

Now we're paying the bill in a hurry,
And our guts are all knotted with worry.
See, you'd sicken too
If your food stared at you!
Maybe next time, we'll order curry.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Christmas Fen Speak


I can't believe it's almost Christmas! I know it's a terrible cliché, but this year has gone by so fast! Luckily, we managed to squeeze in one more Fen Speak poetry open mic night before the end of the 2013!

Full House!

We were back in Ely for this month's event and despite the inhospitable weather, the Babylon gallery was full to bursting with poetry-lovers! In the end, twenty-one talented performers took to the stage to entertain us with their stories, poems and monologues.

Elaine and her Christmas Hat!
Elaine Ewart did a fantastic job hosting the evening - looking very festive in her Santa Hat and Christmassy earrings - and I assumed the role of official photographer. (So apologies for the quality of the pictures!)

I always really look forward to these open mic nights, and I'm always incredibly impressed by the breadth of literary talent in Fens. Whether something in the water makes Fen Folk natural wordsmiths, or whether creative people are drawn to the wide skies of Cambridgeshire I'm not sure, but it certainly makes for some pretty brilliant Fen Speak nights out!

And it was another fine evening of poetry and prose on Wednesday. We listened to tales love, depression, boredom and sex; political poems and protest poems, and poems about the strangeness of the Fenland landscape. Prose poems and storytelling, and poetry translated from twelfth century Latin! Rousing rhyming monologues, villanelles and couplets, and even a father and son poetry duo! There were cliffhangers and tearjerkers, and poems that made the audience erupt with laughter and gasp in surprise.

In short, it was amazing!

Thank you to everyone who came along, and a special thanks to all those who performed. Here are a couple of photos of the evening - see if you can spot yourself!




So that's it then. Almost the end of 2013.

But don't worry, there's still plenty of time to enter the Fenland Poet Laureate Competition. In fact, we'll be open for submissions right up until 31st January 2014. So if you're stuck for something to do over the Christmas holiday, why not write a poem for Fenland? We're really looking forward to reading all the entries in February!

In the mean time, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas break and a peaceful, prosperous and poetic New Year!

wise men and democrats

There once was a land where the sovereign was cruel,
an arrogant hoarder, a thrifty old fool.
He drained people dry, like a louse or a flea,
but he gets his comeuppance, just you wait and see.

This miserly monarch, he loved all his fashions,
but kept a close eye on the cash he was splashing.
Ignoring the fine print, forgoing the jargon
for coupons and savings and freebies and bargains.

While browsing one day on an auctioning site
he found a new suit made of fabric so light
it would sparkle and shimmer and fit like a glove.
Though there were no photos, the King fell in love.

The suit came with shirt and with waistcoat and jacket
plus it was new and was still in the packet!
And it was selling for under half price!
He couldn't pass up on an offer so nice!

He ordered his servants to buy it from Ebay.
(Other sites are available too, by the way.)
It came the next day, in a package so small
as if it contained almost nothing at all.

His maids, ever sceptical, opened the box
and found packing paper, instructions, and socks.
The manual said that the suit was unique
made from unicorn mare, and seasonably chic.

But the fabric could only be seen by the wise.
So the King slipped it on – it was just the right size!
He was so swept away by the mood he was in
that he swore he felt cloth nestling next to his skin.

He adjusted the collar, and pulled down the cuffs –
all his servants could see was a bloke in the buff.
But they didn't let on, lest they seem moronic,
which, in that situation, seemed pretty ironic.

So the King was content and out went the decree
that their leader wore clothes only wise folk could see.
Soon all of his subjects were fooled by the ruse
of the 'Emperor's New Clothes' (not the 'King in the Nude').

And so the years past, and fashions moved on.
The Ruler grew crueller and the strange suit stayed on.
'Til the folk of the land, with more taxes to fear,
stopped seeing the nudity of the King's rear.

So when this mad monarch went to visit new lands
his maids didn't think to pack any spare pants.
On arrival? Arrested for being obscene.
Seems his beautiful suit had offended their Queen.

The Emperor's subjects now govern by vote
(though the PM once claimed an invisible coat).
And the King is still there, in his cell and in shock,
mulling over the fact that we all saw his –

Sunday, 15 December 2013

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Selling Out

I'm delighted to report that our booklet of poetry and artwork inspired by museums in the East of England - Glass Cases and Curios - has completely sold out, in less than a week!

The success of the booklet is down to its fantastic content, and we were so lucky that fifteen incredible writers and seven wonderful artists were able to contribute to the project. And it's incredible to think that something I helped to create has proven to be so popular!

I've been grinning from ear to ear all weekend!

Also this week, I performed my poetry in front of the Bishop of Ely and guests, at the Ely Mothers' Union Christmas Party.

I had a really lovely night reading some of the poems that I've written during my time as Fenland Poet Laureate, watching a lady called Saskia play some very accomplished pieces on the saxophone, and joining in with the carol singing at the end of the evening. (Leanne's singing style: off-key but enthusiastic!)

It was also a chance to have a good look inside the Bishop's house, and I am nothing if not nosy!

I had such a lovely time, and I am very grateful to Angela Jones and her fellow committee members for inviting me to perform.

NEXT WEEK:
On Wednesday 18th December, we'll be hosting our final Fen Speak Poetry Open Mic Night of 2013!

We'll be back at the Babylon Gallery in Ely, giving you the opportunity to share your work with other like-minded creative people, and develop your performing skills in a friendly and supportive environment.


Entry to the open mic is free and there are still plenty of slots on the list, if you'd like to get up and have a go! Writers of all ages and abilities are welcome, and best of all, there's no obligation to perform! (Although we do encourage everyone to take the plunge!)

The doors to the gallery will open at 7:30pm, and the open mic will begin at 8pm.

See you there!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Teaching Teenagers and Launching a Publication

This week has been ridiculously busy, but really rewarding and a lot of fun too!

On Tuesday afternoon, I spent some time with a group of 13-15 year old students at the Thomas Clarkson Academy in Wisbech, teaching my very first schools' workshop.

Source

I was so nervous about this workshop because I really wanted to create a session that was fun and interesting, while also helping the kids to better understand some of the concepts used in poetry. The lessons at this particular school are only fifty minutes long, so it was tough to think of some good games that would keep the class occupied, without the lesson feeling too rushed.

I needn't have worried though, as the whole thing went off without a hitch. The kids were absolutely incredible; really switched-on, engaged and a lot of fun to interact with. They also came up with some great examples of simile, based around their favourite colours. My personal favourite was the girl who came up with the simile 'as blue as a giraffe's tongue' - genius!

Source

We then looked at the differences between simile and metaphor, and I asked the class to write about themselves using metaphor. I asked them to describe themselves in terms of an item of food, a school subject, an animal, and a genre of film. Once again we got some brilliant responses. The students were a little bit shy about sharing their writing, but I peered over a few shoulders while they were getting on with the tasks and I have to say, I caught sight of some really lovely poetry!

I was so pleased!

We rounded off with a little game about rhyming, and an exercise looking at creating collaborative poetry. I really wish I had more time to work with these kids, but luckily for me I've been asked back in February next year to do a prose workshop! I'd better get my thinking cap on to come up with some more writing games!

*                           *                           *

On Thursday evening, we went down to the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences in Cambridge, to launch the Glass Cases and Curios booklet of poetry and artwork inspired by museums!


The launch night was so much fun, and I'm really grateful to the Sarah Hammond - the museum's administrator - and all the museum volunteers for their help and support on the night. The museum itself has a really traditional feel, with lots of glass cases and curios, as well as some fantastic dinosaur skeletons and interactive displays. It was exactly the right place to launch our publication!

It's well worth a visit too, if you're ever in Cambridge!

We started the show at 6pm with wine and nibbles. (I accidentally bought Bulgarian wine, so I'm not sure what that tasted like! It all went though, so I think it must have been ok!) I stood outside to greet the guests as they arrived. It had been a pretty stormy day, so everyone looked at little windswept, but it was really great to see that so many people had braved the elements in order to attend!

Once everyone had arrived, we settled down to enjoy a few short readings from the booklet by poets Pete 'Cardinal' Cox, Elaine Ewart, Caroline Gill, Pete Irving and J.S. Watts. I would have liked all our poets to have read their work at the event, but we didn't have enough chairs, and it would have been unfair to ask our guests to stand for such a long stretch. Plus, it's important to leave your audience wanting more, and we didn't want to give away all the lovely stuff in the booklet in one go!

It was really fantastic to meet many of the poets and artists who had contributed to the booklet, and we were really pleased that so many people joined us for the occasion, coming from as far afield as Ipswich, Norwich, and even London!


Everyone commented on the great quality of the printed booklets, so we must thank Ely Print Centre for their excellent and diligent service. Of course, a special thanks also go to artist and designer Max Bowman, who did a fantastic job on the cover design for the collection.


In the end, we sold almost fifty booklets and, along with the complimentary copies that we gave to each of the contributors, we managed to give out over sixty in total!

If you weren't able to make it to the event, but would like a copy of Glass Case and Curios - featuring the work of twenty-two talented poets and artists including writing from three local poet laureates - you can order online by contacting Karen Harvey on info@karen-harvey.co.uk The booklets are £4 each plus £1.20 postage and package, and can be paid for via cheque or postal order.

Finally, a big thank you to all the contributors who worked so hard on the poems and artwork within the booklet. Without their wonderful creativity, they would be no Glass Cases and Curios! Thank you to artists Max Bowman, Cyprian Garlikowski, Mandy Knapp, David Lewis, Adam Sheffield and Taymaz Valley, and to poets Andy Bennett, Miriam Brown, Cardinal Cox, Deb Curtis, Rani Drew, Elaine Ewart, Caroline Gill, Emily Hasler, Peter Irving, Teresa Mclean, Afrodita Nikolova, Roy South, John Thake, and JS Watts!


 All photos of the Glass Cases and Curios event 
courtesy of Karen Harvey
All rights reserved

Sunday, 1 December 2013

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Workshops, Open Mics, and the Launch of Glass Cases and Curios

This week I've been putting together the final preparations for our Glass Cases and Curios booklet launch event, writing and editing a poem for the Whittlesey Museum, and sending out fliers for the Fenland Poet Laureate Competition. I've also been preparing for my very first poetry workshop in a secondary school! 

I'm going to be working with pupils from Year 8 and Year 9 at the Thomas Clarkson Academy in Wisbech, and I'm really excited about it. I've got some great writing games and exercises planned, and I'm looking forward to seeing what fantastic poetry the group can produce during the session. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't the tiniest bit nervous though! Wish me luck!

Then on Thursday of this week, we'll be launching Glass Cases and Curios, a new collection of poetry and art inspired by museums! 

The booklet is the first that I have co-edited, and I'm incredibly grateful to freelance creative consultant Karen Harvey, for all her help, advice, and support on the project.


Karen and I first had the idea for Glass Cases and Curios way back in April, and it's really exciting that we're finally ready to launch the collection! The booklets themselves are all printed and ready to go, and they look absolutely fantastic! We're really thankful to all the talented artists and writers who contributed to this publication, and the launch promises to be a great event, filled with poetry, art, dinosaur bones, glass cases and curios! What more could you want from a night out?

The booklet includes great poetry from Andy Bennett, Miriam Brown, Cardinal Cox, Deb Curtis, Rani Drew, Elaine Ewart, Caroline Gill, Emily Hasler, Peter Irving, Teresa Mclean, Afrodita Nikolova, Roy South, John Thake, and JS Watts. It also includes some beautiful artwork from Max Bowman, Cyprian Garlikowski, Karen Harvey, Mandy Knapp, David Lewis, Adam Sheffield and Taymaz Valley. 

We'll be launching the Glass Cases and Curios booklet in the beautiful surroundings of the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences on Thursday 5th December. Doors open at 6:00pm with selected poetry readings at 6:30pm. Then, from 7:00pm onwards, you'll have the opportunity to chat to the contributors of the collection, and explore the Sedgwick Museum for yourself. 

Copies of the booklet will also be available to purchase at the special price of £4.00 each. 

This event is free, but places are limited. To book your tickets, please contact Karen Harvey