Sunday, 27 April 2014

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - School workshops, Essex gigs and Meeting the Mayor

Hello poetry fans! I hope you're all well and happy? I am exhausted today! It's been such a busy week here at poetry towers - one of those weeks where I feel like I've barely had time to sit down. Still, it's all been good fun, so I can't complain!

I can, however, apologise for this enormous blog post. I hope you've packed your blog-waders? Ok, good. Let's dive in!

On Thursday, I toddled up to the Kimbolton School to give a poetry workshop to Y13 creative writing students. They were a really bright bunch of girls, and I really enjoyed hanging out with them!

We did a bit work on simile and metaphor, and then had a go at the dreaded univocalism! Basically, I asked them to write a few lines of poetry without using the letters a, i, o and u, and they really rose to the challenge! One of the girls even penned a ditty about dysentery, which was both incredibly clever and a little bit gross.

I was very proud!

Then, I spent Thursday evening at the Junction in Cambridge, working as part of their newly established theatre writing community. Led by Daniel Pitt - the arts producer at the Junction - this series of workshops aims to support would-be theatre writers by giving them the chance to attend workshops with some of the UK's top theatre critics and writers, while also viewing and responding to a range of contemporary performance art pieces.

On this occasion, our workshop leader was Maddy Costa, who gave us loads of interesting insights into the world of theatre writing. We also watched Domestic Labour: A Study in Love, and we'll all be writing up our responses to the show on the community blog.

Then, on Friday night, Elaine Ewart and I crossed the misty Fens to attend the Mayor at Home event at the Wisbech Social Club. We had been invited along in order to receive our grant from the Wisbech Town Council, who had kindly given us a some money to cover the costs of hosting the Fenland Poet Laureate awards.

It was wonderful to see so many worthy local charities receiving grants funding, and we are incredibly grateful to the Wisbech Town Council for all they have done to facilitate and support the Fenland Poet Laureate Awards this year!

Hanging out with Councillor Samantha Hoy

On Saturday night, I popped down to Essex to hang out with Steve and Tina Lawton and perform at their monthly house concert at the Boiler Room in Colchester.

This is exactly how gigs should be: a large living room filled with fairy lights and flooded with floor cushions, good music, good company and a real sense of community. With just over twenty people in attendance, there was a lovely intimate feel to this show.

We had music from fantastic singer/songwriter Harry Hunt, and from the wonderfully talented trio, the Martin Hartley Band. I did a bit of poetry too, and as usual, I managed to shock everyone into silence with a few well-chosen poems! Par for the course, really...

It was a really fun evening, and a great chance to get out and meet some fantastic new people. House concerts are definitely the way of the future!

Finally, this week was the last full week of NaPoWriMo challenge. I'm really sad to think that there are only three more days to go! That being said, I am feeling a touch of Poetry Fatigue, so perhaps it's all for the best in the long run!

You can have a read of the poems I've written this week using the links below:
Day 21 - This bridleway will grace no map
Day 22 - Why write?
Day 23 - Buzzed
Day 24 - Enter these ruins
Day 25 - Six months abroad
Day 26 - How to teach poetry to kids
Day 27 - Ya-te-veo


Sunday, 20 April 2014


Yesterday I went along to the Writers’ Centre Norwich to take part in a performance poetry workshop hosted by Salena Godden.

Salena is a poet I've admired for a while now - her poems are so honest and passionate, and she uses humour and wit to talk about heavy subjects in a way that I think is really accessible. So when I heard she was giving a free workshop in Norwich (and on a Saturday too!) I knew it would be an excellent way to spend an afternoon.

And it was!

There were eight of us in the workshop group, and it was fantastic to work alongside such incredibly talented writers, all of whom had very different writing styles. Salena's workshop style was relaxed and fun, and the games and exercises she devised were engaging and thought-provoking. I particularly like the warm up exercise, in which we all asked to think about the relative value of certain randomly-chosen words. It was a pretty ingenious way to get our brains in gear, and I might even try it with my Y13s when I give my next school's workshop on Thursday!

I've also got a few half-finished pieces that might find their way into finished poems in the not too distant future. All in all, it was a great good experience, and I'm really looking forward to the companion workshop with Ross Sutherland next month.

Aside from that, the NaPoWriMo challenge continues at pace, and I'm pleased to say that I'm still on schedule, with twenty poems written in the last twenty days.
You can have a read of the poems I've written this week using the links below. Let me know what you think - I'm particularly fond of the sonnet about Sutton Hoo, Ritual, and Colonel in Chief (of my Heart)

Day 14 - Fresh Air and Exercise
Day 15 - Irony
Day 16 - Colonel in Chief (of my Heart)
Day 17 - burial at sea
Day 18 - What we Believe but Cannot Prove
Day 19 - Ritual
Day 20 - Polaris


Next week:

On Saturday 26th April, I’ll be heading down to Colchester to take part in a gig organized by the very lovely Steve and Tina Lawton. Steve performs poetry under the moniker Just Some Guy, and is a really great poet and performer.

I'm really looking forward to telling some poems at this event. Tina and Steve open up their own house (!) to guests, and the bands and performers play in their front room, so it sounds like it’s going to be a really interesting night!

Then, on Sunday 27th April, I’ll be performing alongside Elaine Ewart as part of the Allographic: Other Voices open mic in Cambridge.

I always really love reading at Allographic gigs, as the audiences are always so warm and welcoming. It’s also a fantastic change to see a real variety of performers, and the open mic portion of the evening frequently unearths amazing local talent – so I’m really looking forward to going along.

If you want to come down and catch this performance, just pop along to the Fountain on Regent Street, Cambridge on Sunday 27th April. The show starts at 8:00pm and entrance is free – although donations are very gratefully received.

I’m planning on trying out a few of the new poems that I’ve written over the course of the NaPoWriMo challenge this month, so if you fancy hearing poems about Philosophical Sweet Shops, or odes to vegetable peelers, then you should definitely come along! See you there!

Thursday, 17 April 2014


Last night, we hosted the seventh Fen Speak poetry open mic at the Babylon Gallery in Ely, and I think it’s fair to say that it was an evening of surprises!

Nineteen talented performers took to the stage to share their poetry and prose, and we were delighted to see a great mix of new faces and returning talent. And, if that wasn’t enough, we were also lucky to have performances from six of our ten Fenland Poet Laureate finalists including the new Fenland poet Laureate herself!

Regular Fen Speaker Paul Quant delivered a wonderful lyrical piece to kick off the evening, and it was great to hear Helen Pletts’ third-prize winning poem again too. Hopefully this marks her first of many performances at our open mic events! Then, Rosemary Westwell read a very beautiful, personal poem about her husband, which really impressed the crowd. Congratulations must go to Miriam Brown for her latest publication, which she kindly recited for us all. I'm always struck by Miriam's keen eye for detail, and it was lovely to be able to hear this new piece from her.

A wonderful expressive performance from Ashley Fox was followed by fantastic examples of NaPoWriMo poetry from our visiting Cambridgean wordsmiths Fay Roberts and Emma Ormond. Jonathan Totman’s poem about the London Underground was full of gorgeous imagery and skillful internal rhyme, while our new Fenland Poet Laureate – Poppy Kleiser – gave an absolutely fantastic rendition of her winning poem.

Bob Sheed delivered a hilarious alternative interpretation of the Humpty Dumpty myth, and first time Fen Speaker Simone Navon performed a collection of lovely haiku that were very warmly received. (We really hope to see more of Simone in the future!) George Ashdown reprised his epic love poem while Alan Bardouleau performed a piece of prose with a distinctive voice and a surprising twist.

Liam Brown gave an absolutely fantastic rendition of The Shooting of Dan McGrew by Robert Service, and the audience was completely enthralled as he recited the entire poem from memory. Dominic O’Sullivan lampooned small town local councils to great effect in his first piece, and then shifted gears completely with a subtle and soulful piece of prose. Robin Morton’s poem about his grandmother was incredibly moving, and Tony McCormack’s fantastic poetry rounded off the evening beautifully! (His ‘misogyny’ poem was one of my highlights of the evening!)

We also heard two excellent poems from my Fen Speak co-host Elaine Ewart, in celebration of the publication of her first poetry collection Fur, Feather and Fen. It’s a wonderful anthology that brings together all of the poems Elaine wrote during her tenure as Fenland Poet Laureate in 2012. You can pick up a copy of Fur, Feather and Fen from the Welney Wild Fowl and Wetlands Visitor Centre, or from Toppings bookshop in Ely.

But by far the most surprising (and wonderful) poem came from Fen Speak regular David Hogg. David gave us all quite a shock just before the interval by proposing to his girlfriend in poetry, live on stage! It was incredibly romantic, and luckily, Hannah said yes!

Not many poetry open mic nights can boast an on-stage engagement!

But seriously, congratulations to David and Hannah! It was another fantastic (and surprising) Fen Speak. Thank you to everyone who came along and donated on the night, and a special thanks to everyone who performed! You are all incredible and Fen Speak would be nothing without you!

Our next event is at the Wisbech and Fenland Museum on Wednesday 21st May, and we’ll be back at the Babylon Gallery on Wednesday 18th June. Check out our facebook page for more information.

Sunday, 13 April 2014


The NaPoWriMo challenge is now in full swing, and it's been really cool to read all the fantastic poetry that other participants have been uploading and sharing. Plus, I'm still up to date, having written thirteen poems since the 1st April! 
I feel so productive!
And, while not all of them are masterpieces (by any stretch of the imagination) a couple have surprised me, and there are definitely one or two poems that will migrate onto my regular set list. 

As with anything, practise makes perfect, and it's really great to have an excuse to do so much writing! I've even written a few 'bonus poems' for guest spots on other websites! 
Anyway, you can check out what I've written this week using the links below. Let me know what you think!
Day 8 - Bilingual
Day 10 - In Her Handbag
Day 11 - Callous Infinity
Day 12 - The End
Day 13 - Anxiety


Writing so regularly has really helped me with my workshop planning this month too! So much so that I've decided to challenge my next lot (Y13s at Kimbolton School) to write a univocalism - just like the one I wrote on day twelve. It'll definitely be tricky, but I think they're up to the challenge!

The workshop isn't until after Easter, but I've already got a lot of ideas about what to do. It's all very exciting!

Finally, I thought I ought to let you know that we'll be back at the Babylon Gallery in Ely this week, for another fantastic Fen Speak Open Mic Night!

We'll have poetry from the New Fenland Poet Laureate - Poppy Kleiser - as well as performances by many of the finalists from last month's Fenland Poet Laureate Awards. There are still plenty of open mic spots available so why not come along and have a go?

We'll be at the Babylon Gallery, Waterside, Ely on Wednesday 16th April. The event is free, and refreshments are provided - in case you need a little bit of Dutch courage to help you to the microphone!

The doors open at 7:30pm, and the show begins at 8pm. Hope to see you there!

Monday, 7 April 2014


It’s been another busy week of poetry this week! In fact, I’m so late that this ‘Sunday Night News’ has actually turned up on Monday afternoon. Ooops!

Anyway, this week I started my first NaPoWriMo challenge!

The idea of National Poetry Writing Month is to write thirty poems over thirty days in April, and so far I’ve managed to keep up fairly well! I’m participating in this year’s challenge as part of a loose collective of writers from Cambridge, and thereabouts:  Fay Roberts, Elaine Ewart, Daisy T-G, Nikki Marrone, Emma Ormond and Russell J Turner.

We’re just over a week into the challenge and I must admit, I’m really enjoying having an excuse to write something every day! Motivation is a funny thing, and I know I’m much more likely to stick to something if I have the encouragement of other people, so maybe I could convince my fellow poets to do this challenge all year round!

We could call it NaPoWriYo!

Nah, it just doesn't sound as catchy! Anyway, you can check out my first seven poems using the links below, or browse the whole website to see the work of all six poets.

Day 1 - Katzenklavier
Day 2 - Flutter
Day 3 - St Vitus
Day 4 - I Need You
Day 6 - Untitled

Also this week, the new Fenland Poet Laureate - Poppy Kleiser - made her radio debut when she was interviewed by Patrick Widdess on his poetry and music show on Cambridge 105FM.

In the interview, Poppy speaks passionately about her own route into poetry, her plans for the coming year, and her belief that poetry should be accessible to everyone. She also performs a few of her own poems in the studio, and her work really does speak for itself!

You can still listen to the show on the Headstand mixcloud page, and you can follow Poppy's progress as during the year on her blog. I'm really looking forward to seeing what she does next!