Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Audio Poetry

Some of the poems I wrote as part of the Museum of Beyond residency are now online on the Museum's Soundcloud page. You can click on the links below and listen to me chuntering away in rhyming couplets. (If you like that sort of thing!)

All the poems were written during my stay at the South Lookout Gallery in Aldeburgh, and all the work was inspired by Fran Crowe's excellent and thought-provoking art exhibition. 

The links are as follows:
Venus of Padstow
Traffic Cones
Beach Combing

Have a listen and let me know what you think!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Writer's Residency at Aldeburgh

Over the past few days I've been on the Suffolk coast, working on a collection of poems as part of the Museum of Beyond project.

The Museum of Beyond is really an art exhibition, designed by Suffolk artist Fran Crowe as a way of drawing attention to the vast amount of plastic rubbish currently floating in our oceans. 

Just some of the plastic found on Suffolk beaches

As part of this project, Fran has imagined a time in the distance future, when oil and plastics are no longer used but the debris from the twenty-first century continues to wash up on our beaches. How would a future curator catalogue these strange items in a museum of twenty-first century life? Would they mistake a traffic cone for a ceremonial headdress? Or would they assume that tooth brushes were actually used for pubic grooming?

The whole exhibition is set out like a museum, with objects carefully placed behind glass and typed cards explaining how 'Oil Age' people may have used each item. The attention to detail is incredible and, though the idea is executed with tongue firmly in cheek, the whole thing is actually really thought-provoking.

Part of a sign from the 'Oil Age'

Fran was kind enough to invite me along to act as writer in residence at the museum, and it was a really brilliant experience. I stayed in Sudbourne, just up the road from Aldeburgh, in Fran and Bill's beautiful guest house.

My home for the residency

During the day, I spent my time in Aldeburgh. The Museum of Beyond was installed at the South Lookout, a beautiful old building which sits right on the pebble beach. Originally used to help guide ships across the sandbanks along the coast, the South Lookout is now owned by art dealer Caroline Wiseman, who encourages artists, writers and musicians to exhibit in the space.

The South Lookout

I arrived in Aldeburgh on Thursday, and spent the morning browsing the collection for inspiration and writing poetry in the tiny room at the top of the tower.

By the time the day was over, I'd written three poems and eaten the most delicious ice cream I have ever tasted! Not bad for the first day on the job!

The view from my office (at the top of the tower)

On Friday, I gave a free poetry workshop at the Lookout, and we had a small group of enthusiastic participants who were bright, inquisitive and full of fantastic ideas. The poetry they created was of a very high standard, and they were a pleasure to work with.

During the day, I also found time to write a few more poems, take a walk up to the Scallop sculpture on the northern part of the beach, and watch a fisherman gut a fish, while a huge crowd of seagulls eyed him hungrily.

The Scallop, designed by Maggi Hambling

On my final day in Suffolk, I performed the eight finished poems I had written during the residency. We also had the privilege of hearing Nathan Williamson play a beautiful piano piece inspired by the collection. Nathan was the composer in residence for the project, and his composition has such a deep emotional resonance - it's perfect for the Museum of Beyond.

Smartie Tops (Oil Age currency)

I had a wonderful week in Aldeburgh and, although writing poems within a constrained time period has its challenges, I'm really proud of the work that I produced. The ideas behind the project gave plenty of food for thought, and it was great to be able to contribute to Fran's project!

The poems I wrote during the week will be available on the museum's website over the next few days, and you can check out audio of me reading some of my favourites over on the Museum of Beyond soundcloud page.

A colourful collection of rubbish

My work with the Museum of Beyond project was funded by Suffolk Coast & Heath Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Sustainable Development Fund. (Thanks guys!) The show was kindly supported by Caroline Wiseman and the Aldeburgh Beach Lookout. I'd like to thank Fran Crowe for giving me the opportunity to work on such an interesting project, and also thank Fran and Bill for all their hospitality during my stay in Suffolk!

Next weekend I'll be in Dorset, performing as part of the Soapbox collective at Camp Bestival. More details to follow. Hope to see some of you there!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Wedding Commission

A few months ago, a friend of mine commissioned me to write a poem for her Dad's wedding.

It's a bit of a daunting prospect, writing a poem for newly-weds. But, after a couple of warm-up attempts, I finally wrote a little sonnet called Grow, and I was pretty pleased with how it turned out.

Once the poem was completed, it was transformed into a beautiful papercut by the very talented Catherine Kilbey of JewelOri.

And look at how nice it is! 

JewelOri are a local brand, who make jewellery, ornaments and artwork from cut and folded paper. Their stuff is amazingly delicate and intricate. I particularly like their origami flower earrings! If you want to check out more of their stuff, you can find them on their Folksy page here.

And, if your eyesight isn't quite good enough to read the poem in the picture above, here it is in full:


There is no love, but that we cultivate,
so plant this seed with me and watch it grow.
I am no gardener, but this I know:
with patience, care and time, we can create

this forest of our love to celebrate
a partnership that we will not outgrow.
I am no gardener, but this I know:
a second chance is always worth the wait.

Our blossoms will bloom brighter every year,
and bear us fragrant fruit so soft and sweet.
And you and I will tend the garden, dear,
while gentle branches shade us from the heat.

There is no love, but that we cultivate.
A second chance is always worth the wait.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Writer's Residency at the Museum of Beyond

So, later this month I’ll be embarking upon my very first writer in residence position, which is very exciting indeed! From 23rd - 26th July, I'll spending three days on the Suffolk Coast, hanging out with artists and musicians, and writing poetry inspired by the Museum of Beyond project.

The project is the work of Fran Crowe, an artist I met at last year's Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. Fran’s work is heavily influenced by global ecological concerns, and she works hard to raise awareness of environmental issues. She has spent nearly ten years collecting some of the plastic items from beaches in and around Suffolk, and she uses this rubbish to create a variety of artwork, drawing attention to the problems associated with plastic litter in our oceans.

For her latest project – the Museum of Beyond – Fran has imagined a time in the distance future, when oil and plastics are no longer used but the debris from the twenty-first century continues to wash ashore. What will future generations think about these ancient artifacts? How will they interpret them and, more importantly, how will they use them to understand – or misunderstand – the lives we live now?

Even though there's a serious message at the core of this project, Fran’s work is full of humour, so I’m really looking forward to working at the Museum of Beyond!

The exhibition will be taking place at the Aldeburgh Beach Lookout from Wednesday 23rd July until Sunday 27th July from 10am to 5pm (except on Sunday, when the Lookout opens from 10am to 4pm).

I’ll be in residence at exhibition on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, joining Fran and Southwold-based composer and pianist Nathan Williamson to create art, poetry and music inspired by the Museum’s collection.

After a frantic few days of creativity, Nathan and I will be giving ‘work in progress’ performances on Saturday 26th July, to show everyone just what we’ve been up to during our stay! Nathan will also be performing his compositions again on Sunday 27th July.

And, if that wasn't enough, I’ll also be conducting an afternoon of 'poetry games' on Friday 25th July from 2pm until 4pm. Budding poets will be invited to drop in to build their own short poem, write about their favourite piece in the Museum, and add a word or phrase to my Inspiration Board.

But if poetry isn’t your thing, you can get involved in other ways too! New contributions to the Museum are always welcome. All you need to do is bring your object (a plastic ‘beach find’) to Fran at the Lookout at any point during the exhibition. Your artefact could end up as part of the permanent collection!

I’ve been busy over the last few weeks, writing poems and preparing for this residency – I’ve even written a Crisp Packet Poem, so I know I’m on the right track!

For more information on the Museum of Beyond, please visit the website or, better yet, come along to the exhibition! We’d love to see you there!

The Museum of Beyond project is part-funded by Suffolk Coast & Heath Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Sustainable Development Fund, and special  thanks also goes to Caroline Wiseman and the Aldeburgh Beach Lookout for supporting the exhibition. All photos courtesy of Fran Crowe at